Temple residents discuss ConVal consolidation article 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, February 08, 2018 7:39AM

About 40 residents gathered at Temple Elementary School on Friday night to discuss a warrant article that would allow ConVal officials to close schools that have low enrollment numbers.

The petitioned warrant article, which has about 60 signatures, would give the school board authority to close schools within the district if student-enrollment dips below 50 students for two consecutive years. Residents will vote on the measure in March.  

The district is currently comprised of 11 schools, which includes eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and a high school. The conversation about consolidating schools has been tossed around for a number of years due to a decade-long decline in enrollment paired with an increasing budget, and aging infrastructure.

Proponents of consolidation say the move would decrease costs, and provide more equitable educational opportunities across the district.

But opponents of such efforts, many who live in small towns within the district, say closing schools could be a death knell for some communities.

Cindi Connolly, who lives in Temple, has a son in first grade. She organized the discussion on Friday night after reading and article in the Ledger-Transcript about recent consolidation efforts.

Connolly said she opposes closing schools.

“From a community standpoint, we stand to lose a lot,” she said.

Temple Elementary School is one of three elementary schools that could be closed if the most recent warrant article regarding consolidation were to pass. Dublin Consolidated School and Hancock Elementary School could also be on the chopping block if the article were to pass.

Connolly said her husband was born and raised in Temple and that they own a business in town, which means they have deep roots in the community. She said if the school were to close, her family would stay. She said that might not be the case for everyone though.

“That’s one of the big questions,” Connolly said of what effect closing a school would have on a small town like Temple. “... We don’t know how it would affect the town.”

She said there’s concern about attracting young families to the area if the town doesn’t have an elementary school. 

“That was one of the questions that definitely came up,” she said about the scenario.

Connolly said she organized Friday’s event, in part, to form an action team moving forward.

She said the group discussed how to grow its elementary school. Right now, she said, TES hosts kindergarten through fourth grade. She said the district should be considering implementing pre-school or bringing its fifth-graders from South Meadow School back to Temple.

“We would like to see, how can we grow our schools?” Connolly said.

Connolly said she is now focusing her efforts on getting people out to ConVal’s deliberative session, and then out to vote in March. She said there would likely be more meetings like the one on Friday although there are no concrete plans yet.

She hopes to keep the momentum from the meeting going. It’s energy that they’ll need going forward, she said, because consolidation is a conversation that’s “not going away.”

Even if the article regarding consolidation fails this year, it’s a discussion that will likely surface again in the future.

And a team needs to be prepared for that, she said. 

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.