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Tunbridge and Chelsea OK Merger



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Chelsea — Voters in Chelsea and Tunbridge approved a proposal to merge into the newly created First Branch Unified School District.

The proposal, which passed 197-110 in Chelsea and 207-61 in Tunbridge, will close Chelsea’s high school in favor of choice for high school students.

Beginning on July 1, First Branch will teach students from pre-K to 8, and will have a single budget overseen by a single school board made up of representatives from each of the two towns — Maryann Caron, Jena Young and Kathy Galuzzo, all of Tunbridge, and Emily Marshia, Deborah Ackerman, and Sue Kay, all of Chelsea, all of whom ran unopposed for their respective seats. The two towns have about 350 students.

Voters at the polls in Chelsea Tuesday evening said a Nov. 30 merger deadline imposed by the state under Act 46 was weighing heavily on their minds.

“A lot of people are scared about what the state will do,” Annette Johnson said, just after voting against the measure. Though she said she expected the merger to be approved, she said she didn’t like the loss of local control, and the thought of bussing more students, which she said would be more costly, and less safe.

Ben Canonica, a Chelsea contractor, voted in favor of the merger because he believed it would be better for the town to make a choice while it had the opportunity. 

The proposal was a modified version of a plan that was approved in both towns in April but was narrowly rejected on a petitioned revote in Tunbridge in June.

Members of a joint study committee said Chelsea and Tunbridge have a long history of collaboration in fielding sports teams, delivering pre-K education, and the Farm-to-School Program, among other ventures, while they said the biggest challenge was reconciling Tunbridge’s tradition of high school choice with Chelsea’s 100-year history of operating its high school.

The Chelsea and Tunbridge school boards are scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Chelsea Public School to discuss the outcome of the vote, among other items of business.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

Correction

Chelsea contractor Ben Canonica voted in favor of a school district merger between Chelsea and   Tunbridge because he believed it would be better for the town to make a choice while it had the opportunity. An earlier version of this story quoted him inaccurately.