Temperature rises in Region 12

Region 12 faces tough questions about its facilities

The temperature is rising in Region 12 as planning for the future takes center stage.

Bridgewater parents have restarted Save Our Schools, hearkening back to the court battle some six years ago that blocked consolidation of elementary grades.

In a heated meeting of the region's Board of Education Education Committee May 20, the board decided the real estate firm Karin & Fazzio would conduct a study to determine the effect on property values for each facility option being considered.

Board members Kelly Lott of Roxbury and Susan Stumpf of Bridgewater argued the study was being rushed at the last minute solely to placate residents of their towns.

Stumpf has filled the seat vacated by Mardi Ford, who retired from the board in April.

"People in Roxbury are saying they should sell their homes now before consolidation goes through and property values plummet," Lott said.

In a quest to keep Burnham School open, SOS leaders Julie Stuart and Carolan Dwyer are hoping to attract new families into Bridgewater and reverse its declining student population.

More Information
What's next in Region 12?
Here are the upcoming meeting dates at Shepaug Valley High School for Region 12's study of its schools:
June 10 at 7 p.m. Anthony Amato will give an overview of the projected economic impact of all the options.
June 17 Board of Education may possibly decide on the option to go to referendum vote in the fall of 2014.

Some ask how realistic that goal is.

New housing construction has declined. Just eight building permits were issued in 2011 in all three of the region's towns, according to researcher Peter Prowda's 2012 enrollment study.

Does Bridgewater's four-acre zoning make it attractive for young families to build there?

On Roxbury mom suggested closing Shepaug Valley High School and paying tuition to other districts for high school students to attend elsewhere.

She believes Shepaug has ridden for too long on a Blue Ribbon rating received from the state in the 1990s and is no longer living up to that rating.

Shepaug Valley Middle/High School on the Washington/Roxbury border needs extensive repairs and renovations.

Being debated is whether to invest $20 million and repair or to invest some $70 million and build a state-of-the art consolidated school.

At issue if that were to be the decision is what the individual towns would do with their empty schoolhousdes.

"We're in the battle to save Shepaug," said education board member Michelle Gorra from Washington.

"Washington and Roxbury, with the most student populations, have been subsidizing keeping Burnham School in Bridgewater open," Gorra said. "And that building can't support technology upgrades."

"The board is trying to put forward a vote for residents of the three towns," Gorra added, "that addresses educational quality and fiscal reality while respecting residents' affiliations to each community."

The Board of Education is scheduled to hear an economic analysis of the facility options, possibly combined with results of the property value study, on June 10 at 7 p.m. at the Shepaug library/media center.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322