To the Editor:

I have friends and acquaintances on both sides of the issue of Region 12 elementary school consolidation. These are people I care for and respect.

Like many of them, I am a parent who wants the best education for my children. And I believe we need to work together to create solutions to our region's issues that work best for a majority of residents for our three towns.

As a taxpayer, I believe spending $32.6 million plus interest to build a new school to house fewer than the current 304 pre-K to grade 5 students is an expense we cannot afford.

The Region 12 analysis of savings in the recent mailing appears to show only the savings generated by a reduction in staff and elimination of utilities/maintenance for the existing schools.

It does not show the full cost of the bond, nor the expense for the three towns to dispose of or repurpose their existing schools, nor increased transportation expenses.

I agree with proponents of consolidation that there could be educational benefits to consolidating our elementary classes. I believe Jerry Ronan's suggestion (Spectrum, March 21) of having Region 12 students split among Booth Free for grades pre-K to 2, Burnham for grades 3-5 and Shepaug for grades 6-12 would be a viable option allowing the region to accomplish the goals of reducing expenses and improving education with a much lower financial cost than building a new school.

And, as much as I love Shepaug, I agree with Ed Wainwright's suggestion, if the goals are to reduce per-student costs and improve education, to close Shepaug, which has both higher per-student costs and lower standardized test scores.

That would be a more sensible plan than closing elementary schools consistently ranked as some of the best in the state

Other options such as the K-2, 3-5 plan for Booth and Burnham and/or offering to accept New Milford students to fill classes in Burnham on a tuition basis are viable options that would require little planning and could result in an immediate reduction in Region 12's per-student cost.

My understanding is Region 12 has been arguing about consolidation almost as long as Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington have been a region.

Like others, I thought the 1047-C state Supreme Court ruling would encourage the Region 12 school board to consider alternate options to improve education and reduce costs.

I am troubled to see the issue of consolidation is continuing to cause rancor between our neighboring communities.

I would like to see the residents of all three towns and the Region 12 School Board accept the results of the upcoming referendum, whatever they might be, and work together to continue to educate our children with love and support.

I encourage all residents of Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington to educate themselves on the upcoming referendum issue and to make the commitment to vote April 29.

Teresa Southard

Bridgewater