Bridgewater weighs its Region 12 ties
Hope is still in the air on the part of administrators and the Board of Education about Region 12's future.
However, some residents of Bridgewater are on the fence about the town's future in the three-town school district.
A well-attended public hearing Aug. 13 sparked questions about whether Bridgewater should leave the region and tuition out its high school students to neighboring school districts or work hard to help keep the region afloat.
Residents Ed Wainwright and Roy Wilkinson have done a study of the possible benefits of tuitioning out older students to neighboring high schools.
They calculate some $3.4 million could be saved annually by closing Shepaug Valley School, the district's middle school and high school in Washington.
"There is in state statute a way for a town to apply to get out of the region," Wainwright said. "The region's and state boards of education would form a committee and review the situation.
"Then the state would have to agree. All three towns have to agree through referendum votes."
Alan Brown, a Bridgewater selectman and vice chairman of the Region 12 Board of Education, frowns on Wainwright's plan.
"It would be discouraged," he said. "The state has set it up to make the divorce as difficult as possible. Other regions are teetering, so the state wouldn't want to set a precedent."
First Selectman Curtis Read invited residents to form an ad hoc committee to discuss the town's options.
A retreat would be held including the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Pat Cosentino and the first selectmen of the region's three towns -- Bridgewater's Curtis Read, Roxbury's Barbara Henry and Washington's Mark Lyon.
Read hopes to take with him the thoughts of his town's residents.
"There are issues to consider," Read said. "We voted not to consolidate the elementary grades and not to renovate Shepaug (Valley School) at a cost of $40 million. But the administration and, perhaps unwittingly, the Board of Ed allowed the elementary facilities to decline, expecting an acceptance of consolidation."
Read said a walk through the three elementary schools by selectmen found Washington Primary and Burnham schools in "somewhat acceptable" shape.
However, Booth Free School in Roxbury "is in terrible shape," he said.
He noted it has a failing septic system, broken stairs and other disrepair.
Cosentino has a more positive outlook.
She has said the result of this spring's district votes let everyone know how residents feel.
"Shepaug has great aspects to its program. It's a really special place," Cosentino has said. "And we have to relay that."
Carolan Dwyer, a representative of the ad hoc group, Save Our Schools, wants to work with the administration and Education Board and take a "business approach."
"In the next year," she said, "I want to see everyone give it their all to bring Shepaug Valley School back to state Blue Ribbon standards."
Brown said the board will hire hire a public relations firm to create an enhanced image of Shepaug Valley School.
"The elementary schools are performing better than Shepaug at this point," Brown said. "The region has a stigma that is not entirely deserved.
"We have a great new science, technology, engineering, and math program. College matriculation from Region 12 is very good. We need to get that word out."
Some residents in Bridgewater are taking steps to bring young families into the town. A brochure and video of the town's finer points are being created for distribution to Realtors.