Prismatic to recommend closing elementary schools in Francestown, Dublin, Bennington and Temple
Published: 12-01-2023 1:27 PM
Modified: 12-01-2023 4:44 PM
Prismatic Consulting, the firm hired by the ConVal School District to address under-enrollment in the nine-town district, plans to recommend a reconfiguration plan that would close Francestown Elementary School, Dublin Consolidated School, Pierce School in Bennington and Temple Elementary School.
The schools are the four smallest of the eight elementary schools in the district, with the most-recent enrollment numbers at 37 for Temple Elementary School, 43 for Francestown Elementary School, 55 for Dublin Consolidated School and 62 for Pierce Elementary School. Based on the recommendation, Greenfield, Antrim, Peterborough and Hancock would absorb the students from those schools.
“This recommendation will be based on what is best for the students, and what is best for the taxpayers,” said Tatia Prieto, founder and principal of Prismatic Consulting,
Students from each of the schools slated to close would have the choice of attending one of the two next closest schools. Prieto said the decision was not made solely by enrollment numbers, but also by transportation distances and facilities. The recommendation will include other factors, such as school start times.
“What our data is showing is that this reconfiguration would easily save the district and the voters $2.5 million a year, and we actually believe that number could be significantly higher,” Prieto said Friday. “When you think about the extra $2.5 million that has been spent on these buildings with so many empty seats every year for the past 10 years, that’s a lot of money. It’s exciting to think about how much more the ConVal district will be able to offer their students with this savings.”
Prismatic and ConVal School Board are planning to release a formal detailed recommendation Tuesday, Dec. 5, based on Prismatic’s six-month study of educational equity and finances in the ConVal School District. The goals of the study were to determine whether every student in the district was receiving equal resources and opportunities, and to assess whether the district was running as efficiently as possible for the taxpayers.
Prieto noted that the capacity of the smallest elementary schools in the district is “way beyond what they will ever need anytime soon.” Demographic projections the ConVal district, and for New Hampshire in general, do not indicate growth in the population of school-age children in the next 10 years.
“We know a lot of parents do value the smaller schools, so this will give every parent the option of choosing a larger school or smaller school for their child,” Prieto said. “The research shows that many children, particularly children who are a little different, actually do better in a slightly larger group, as opposed to a tiny group. The larger group gives them more options and enables them to fit in and not feel they are the one who is different.”
Prieto said that not having to maintain schools with “so many empty seats” will enable the district to spend more money on enriching the existing schools.
“We are going to recommend that Antrim and Peterborough open before-school care and after-school care, which is a real concern for people according to the feedback we received. We are also going to recommend that the middle schools implement a world language program, which they don’t have, because they have not been able to afford it. When you look at what the district could start to provide for all the students, it’s pretty exciting. People get way too hung up on buildings,” Prieto said. “What matters is a thriving classroom, and providing the best possible education for the kids.”
The ConVal School Board will hold a special meeting Thursday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. in the SAU No. 1 board room, where Prieto will present the final report. The board will hold a public forum about the reconfiguration recommendation Monday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lucy Hurlin Auditorium at ConVal High School. If the School Board goes forward, it would create a proposal for residents of the nine towns to vote on, and any vote to reduce the number of elementary schools would have to pass by a two-thirds margin across the district.