Residents cite concerns at ConVal reconfiguration hearing

Laura Mafera speaks at the microphone during the ConVal reconfiguration forum Thursday night. On the stage are School Board members Alan Edelkind, Dan Harper and Richard Dunning.

Laura Mafera speaks at the microphone during the ConVal reconfiguration forum Thursday night. On the stage are School Board members Alan Edelkind, Dan Harper and Richard Dunning. —STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-12-2024 10:22 AM

Modified: 02-14-2024 10:26 AM


At a community forum Thursday night, ConVal school district residents expressed their concern that charter schools may move into the empty school buildings if the proposal to close Francestown Elementary School, Dublin Consolidated School, Pierce School in Bennington and Temple Elementary School gets the needed two-thirds vote March 12.

“We have a concerted and well-funded effort in this state, and around the country, to destroy public education,” said former state legislator Gordon Allen of Antrim. “If you want to see a downward spiral of public education, [closing elementary schools] is providing a great opportunity for that to happen.”

In state law, RSA 194:61 states that charter schools would receive right of first refusal should a school board decide to sell or lease a school building that isn’t actively being used for educational or school-related activities.

“I think there exists a very real concern that the charter school movement would come for these schools that are closed,” state Rep. Jonah Wheeler of Peterborough said.

Dublin School Board representative Alan Edelkind, chair of the Strategic Organization Committee, acknowledged the possibility of charter schools moving into unused facilities, and said the district could opt to sell the building to the town or any other interested party should a charter school decline. 

Multiple residents addressed the possibility of Temple, Bennington, Dublin and Francestown withdrawing from the ConVal district, and Temple resident Alan Pickman asked if the board had considered how that might affect the benefits of the reconfiguration plan. 

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ConVal School Board Chair Dick Dunning of Peterborough said they had, and emphasized that each town would have to vote on exiting the school district and provide a study detailing the effect of withdrawal on the town.

“I don’t see that as a viable option that would make things better for the school, particularly financially,” Dunning said. “You still have to have a supervisor union, you have to have the staff – all the things that come with a school.” 

Francestown resident Laura Mafera noted Dublin, Temple, Francestown and Bennington send approximately 400 students and roughly $10 million in tax revenue into the district, asking whether the savings from closing the schools would offset that potential loss. 

“It’s pretty hard to say right now what that impact would be,” Dunning said. “I think that when the towns look into moving, and they balance things out, I think they’ll have a different perspective. If you leave the district, you have to go somewhere else. Is t he re a cost savings? I don’t know that there would necessarily be one for you.”