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Pomfret Debates Ownership of School

  • Melanie Williams, of Pomfret, Vt., talks about an amendment proposed by the Board of School Directors during the annual school meeting at Town Hall in Pomfret, Vt., on March 6, 2018. The amendment was rejected, 23 to 63, which denied giving the deed of the school and property to the town. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jennie Williams, of Pomfret, Vt., raises questions to the school board during the annual school meeting at Town Hall in Pomfret, Vt., on March 6, 2018. Voters spent over two hours discussing if the newly-formed Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District should transfer the Prosper Valley School property to the Town of Pomfret. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pomfret selectman Scott Woodward speaks during a discussion at Town Meeting about ownership of the Prosper Valley School building as a result of the newly-formed Windsor Central Modified Union School District in Pomfret, Vt., on March 6, 2018. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Pomfret — Voters at Pomfret’s annual school meeting engaged in a sometimes contentious debate about the ownership of the Prosper Valley School before ultimately deciding it should belong to the newly formed Windsor Central Modified Unified Union School District.

Pomfret is part of the Prosper Valley School Joint District along with Bridgewater. That district will be absorbed into the new modified district on June 30 and includes Bridgewater, Killington, Reading, Plymouth, Pomfret and Woodstock. The Pomfret School District currently owns Prosper Valley School.

At stake was whether the new school district should own the building or should it be transferred to the town, which would then lease it to the unified district. The initial article asked voters to transfer the deed of the school and property to the town. An amendment proposed by the Board of School Directors clarified what that would require: In order for the town of Pomfret to acquire the property and lease it to the district, all towns in the new unified school district would need to vote by Australian ballot to modify the articles of agreement.

The school directors did not support having the town take possession of the property, but brought the matter to voters after some residents expressed concern at last month’s informational meeting about losing public access to the building and grounds, loss of local control and what it might cost the town if it ever wanted to buy back the property.

Board Chairwoman Patti Kuzmickas warned that pursuing the lease option would be the more difficult course of action.

Selectboard members Frank Perron and Scott Woodward were among those who expressed concern about the loss of local control that would come with having the new school district take ownership of the school.

“It’s really kind of an emotional thing,” Perron said.

Pomfret was the only town in the state that the board of directors knew of that was considering such a lease agreement, Kuzmickas said.

“It seems like we’re really complicating things,” said Kevin Rice, chief of the Pomfret-Teago Fire Department.

To address residents’ concerns, board members of the new unified district — Kuzmickas and Robert Coates — said they would ask that board to protect public access to the building and grounds through easements.

After more than two hours of discussion, the town rejected the article on 63-22 paper ballot vote.

During the school meeting, Jody Eaton was elected school director until the district merger takes place and Coates was elected school director to the Woodstock Union High School District No. 4, which will also expire on June 30 when the district ceases to exist.

Prior to the school meeting, voters handily approved all warning articles at Tuesday’s Town Meeting and elected three Selectboard members.

Selectboard members Michael Reese and Woodward were re-elected, and member John Peters Jr. was elected to one-year term after being appointed to the board following the resignation of former Chairwoman Shelia Hopkins in August.

The majority of the articles yielded little discussion.

“We’re trying to be more precise in our budgeting,” Woodward said of the $1.3 million budget, which is within a few thousand dollars of the budget approved last year, before it was approved by voice vote.