Reaction to announcement of possible closing of Albion Elementary School

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY

by Katrina Dumont, Kara Kugelmeyer, Billy-Jo Woods

Dear Fellow Albion Resident(s),

Our town has had its own school(s) since its founding in 1804.

Today, we are faced with the reality that the MSAD #49 School Board has decided to close the Albion Elementary School, as part of the MSAD #49 new school construction project.

Closing our only school will have many impacts (listed below) on our town both socially and economically.

Fortunately, as citizens of Albion, we have many options that we can explore and take action on in response to this decision (options below). The purpose of this letter is to inform fellow residents of our options, and invite all Albion residents to join future discussions on what option(s) the town should pursue.

After discussion with the Albion Selectboard, the residents (listed below) have started a committee that has been exploring:

  • What realistic options does the town have in response to the school closing: keep school, close school, school choice, etc. (see options below).
  • What would be the impacts (positive and negative) on the students, residents, and town with the closing of the Albion Elementary school.

An overview of the information that we have gathered to date is below. Detailed information can be found at https://albionschoolfutures.squarespace.com/ Also sometime in the next few months there will be a special public meeting to discuss our options (to be scheduled).

Below is more about the school closing and options:

On March 18, 2021, the MSAD #49 School Board accepted the recommendation of the new school building committee to close the Fairfield Primary building, consolidate the elementary schools, and close the Albion and Clinton Elementary Schools. While the purpose of the new building has not been fully envisioned, it will house some if not all of the elementary grades.

The vote on the motion passed 10-2-1, with the Albion School Board members voting against the motion. The closing of our school, which does not need or have to happen, will be tied to a vote to fund the new school. The final vote to try and close our school, which is a district wide vote (so even if Albion votes no the school can still be closed), will most likely be held in June of 2022 (next year).

It is fair to say that receiving state funding for a new school can be seen as a win for MSAD49, yet it is equally true that closing the Albion elementary school will have many harmful and long term negative impacts on our residents, young students, and our town.

While the location of the new school has not been posted on the district’s school consolidation webpage, all evidence points to that it will not be in Albion or in Clinton. Also while a large part of the cost of the new school will be paid for by the state, the towns in the district will need to pay the remaining costs to build the new school. Finally, while our current school building in Albion is older, it’s still an adequate building for our students, even by the state’s ratings and standards.

So what does closing our school mean for our town?

Sadly the vast majority of studies (educational, social, and economic) on rural school closings conducted across the U.S., including in Maine, show that when a rural town loses its only school to consolidation, especially an elementary school, even when residents have access to a new school in a nearby town, the following negative outcomes occur.

  • For young children, longer bus rides and larger class size, often negatively impacts their overall academic performance, (reading, writing, and math), and lessens their connection to the people in their local community
  • The sense of community and town identity is hugely diminished for all residents and many people stop wanting to move to the town
  • For students and families who don’t live near the school, the ability to easily participate in school related extracurricular activities, like sports, becomes much harder
  • The future of the town as a inviting place to live and raise a family is hugely diminished, and the town’s population decreases, increasing the tax burden on the remaining citizens (you still have to pay school taxes no matter what)
  • In rural towns the farther a residence is from a school, the value homes and property decreases, as does the ability to attract future buyers for homes
  • Taxes increase as home and property values decrease
  • Local school related taxes (the biggest part of tax bills) increase regardless of cost savings with a new
    building, as the major portion of the school budget is salaries
    Fortunately, as citizens of Albion, we have options that we can explore and take action on. It is fair to say that all of these
    options have some upsides and downsides. Our options include:

    • Vote NO! When the district wide vote to close the school(s) happens next year, vote against closing the school(s). *This a district wide vote so all towns in the district get to vote on closing our school, so if Albion votes no and the rest of the towns vote yes, the school still closes.
    • Withdraw from the MSAD #49 district with three different possible options:
    1. Keep our elementary school (home rule) and have school choice (children can go to any schools in the area) for middle and high school. The school would have different leadership. Children could still go to Lawrence or Benton elementary. We can afford to do this at the current tax rate.
    2. Close our elementary school but have school choice (can go to any schools in the area, including MSAD #49) for all grades. Children can still go to Lawrence or Benton elementary. We can afford to do this at the current tax rate.
    3. Join another district and negotiate to keep our elementary school and school choice.
    • Stay in the district and support the closing of our elementary school.

You can learn more details about the options, the impacts, and the new school project at https://albionschoolfutures.squarespace.com/ If you wish to join the committee looking at the options, have questions etc. please email: albionschoolfutures@gmail.com.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers, and is not necessarily the views of the staff or the board of directors. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

 
 

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