Region 12 struggles to escape 'quagmire'
Region 12 is apparently caught in a "quagmire."
At least members of the region's Board of Education appear to be stuck in neutral regarding the question of consolidation.
This was the opinion of board member Susan Stumpf, of Bridgewater, this week upon learning the board's attorney nixed proceeding to region-wide referendum with the question proposed by the board.
A dollar amount required for construction of a possible consolidated school for children from Washington, Bridgewater and Roxbury cannot be attached to a ballot question about amending the three towns' regional plan, board Chairman Jim Hirschfield, of Washington, told the board Monday.
There would have to be two ballot questions, he said, and who could vote on each issue would depend whether the voter's status be resident or taxpayer.
Having a dollar amount included in the ballot question had been the board's understood premise in hiring architectural firm Fletcher-Thompson for $104,000 to develop pre-referendum schematics and a cost for a new school.
"We're dead in the water," said board member Pete Tagley, of Washington. "Real dead. There's no overwhelming support for this."
"We're spending a lot of money," he added, "and I've had no direction from anyone in Washington telling me what they want us to do."
"I'm all for having the public guide the board," she said, "but we're not going in that direction. That's the quagmire we're in."
Fletcher-Thompson representatives held three "Future of Region 12" meetings during the last two weeks and met with school administrators and educators to glean "direction from the community" before beginning schematic designs.
"It was very informative," said Daniel Casinelli, of Fletcher-Thompson. "We heard pros and cons, which helped us in trying to understand the needs and concerns of the community."
Casinelli and his team presented their findings Monday to the Region 12 board.
"There is a strong sense that the community feel now existing in the three separate elementary schools should be maintained," said Angela Cahill of Fletcher-Thompson. "That would include having an intimate atmosphere for students and accommodating community activities to be held at the (new) school."
Whether Fletcher-Thompson's calculations will go before Region 12 voters remains to be seen.
Board vice chairman Alan Brown of Bridgewater called for an immediate referendum, with the sole question of whether the regional plan should be amended.
Brown's motion was tabled, but Hirschfield said he would review Brown's motion for the next meeting.
"If a referendum to amend the regional plan fails that's it," Hirschfield said. "But we want to present voters with the information they need to make an informed decision."