Panel Vote Inches Charlestown Closer to Dropping Out of School District

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/3/2018 12:26:47 AM
Modified: 10/3/2018 12:27:37 AM

Charlestown — The School Research Committee has voted, 3-2, to recommend the creation of a committee to study the possibility of the town withdrawing from the Fall Mountain Regional School District.

The committee, which was appointed after voters passed an article last March, will make its recommendation to the Selectboard later this month and the board will decide whether to place the study committee proposal on the March ballot, research committee Chairman Albert St. Pierre said.

According to state law, if voters approve the request for a withdrawal study committee in March, the committee, after its formation, will have no more than six months to report its findings to the State Board of Education and say whether or not withdrawal by Charlestown is feasible. If the recommendation is for withdrawal and the state board approves the plan, it would go to voters in the district in March 2020.

St. Pierre said withdrawal would mean Charlestown students in pre-K through eighth grade would continue to be educated in town as they are now, but students in grades 9-12 would no longer be required to attend Fall Mountain Regional High School. Charlestown would tuition students to other high schools. Other nearby high schools include Springfield, Vt., and Stevens.

According to the minutes from last week’s School Research Committee meeting, St. Pierre and members Trina Dearborn and William Fowle supported a withdrawal study committee while Scott Wade and Rob Tiebout voted against it.

“Our goal was to look through the finances and see if this was a potential avenue to save money, and I don’t believe we have found any substantial cost savings,” Tiebout said in an email to the committee.

Tiebout also said he was concerned about Charlestown not having a say in what happens at the high school level, which he said would happen if the town withdrew.

“At this point, I think Fall Mountain is the best local school for our students, and I don’t believe we can manage to get the same level of education that they are receiving for less money.”

Supporters of withdrawal also pointed to the current funding formula that pays for Fall Mountain district expenses and said it is unfair to Charlestown and allocated disproportionately.

“The existing funding formula needs to be radically overhauled at the least,” St. Pierre said at last week’s meeting.

Fowle disagreed with Wade’s assertion that Charlestown may end up in a worse position than it is now and said he does not feel that would happen under a withdrawal scenario.

On Tuesday, St. Pierre said he is confident withdrawal would save Charlestown money without sacrificing educational quality.

In order for the withdrawal study committee to be created, Charlestown voters would need to approve it in March. At the same time, a Fall Mountain School District warrant article to pay for the committee’s work requires approval from only one town in the district for passage, St. Pierre said. Acworth, Alstead, Langdon and Walpole are the other Fall Mountain towns.

St. Pierre estimated that the withdrawal study committee would need about $30,000.

If the committee is approved in March, its members would include at least one school board member and one selectboard member from each of the five towns. The research committee plans to hold public forums on the issue in November.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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