Towns at odds over Region 12 long-range planning
Updated 10:53 am, Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Agreeing to disagree might be a polite way to describe the situation in Region 12 regarding the long-range planning for its schools.
"The Board of Education is charged by the state with doing what is best for the whole region," said Pat Cosentino, superintendent of schools. "I am doing what the board has asked for long-range planning. We are projecting out the best we can."
However, town leaders and some parents in Bridgewater and Roxbury are not on board with the numbers thus far produced to determine the future of schools in Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater.
Seventeen of the Bridgewater parents serving on the region's long-range planning committee pulled out May 8, citing what they felt is the committee's one-track look at consolidation, without sufficiently considering the other options.
In other words, a line appears to have been drawn in the sand when it comes to long-range planning in Region 12.
More InformationHere are the upcoming meeting dates at Shepaug Valley High School for Region 12's study of its schools:
May 28 at 6 p.m. Presentation of all options will be made to the long-range planning committee.
June 3 at 7 p.m. All options will be presented to the Board of Education.
June 10 at 7 p.m. Anthony Amato will give an overview of the projected economic impact of all the options.
June 17 or 24 Board of Education will decide on the option to go to referendum vote in the fall of 2014.
The first selectmen of Bridgewater and Roxbury are asking "Where are the numbers?"
"I want to see cost projections for all of the options," said Barbara Henry, Roxbury's first selectman. "Exactly what we are doing now is not sustainable but the first plan for consolidation coming in at over $70 million was not something that I wanted to see."
Henry added she is "not opposed to totally consolidating the K through grade 12 classes" on one campus, if student population decline would be, in fact continuing. But she wants hard numbers.
Bill Stuart, Bridgewater first selectman, is waiting to hear "figures for bringing more tuition students into the region and for having the three towns' high school students pay tuition to attend other districts."
Stuart also want to see figures on different ways of housing grades K-5 students throughout the three present elementary schools.
"I helped bring John Costa in to facilitate this discussion," Stuart said. "From what we're seeing in Bridgewater, it looks like only consolidation of all grades is being considered."
Julie Stuart, a Bridgewater parent who is heading the Save Our Schools initiative, suggests all avenues aren't being researched by the committee.
"I agree we can't keep our elementary schools open if there are eventually just six kids coming into each school," she said, "but there's a lot we can do to reverse the student population decline by bring new families into our towns."
Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon believes what looks to Bridgewater like "a slant" to just considering consolidation comes from the fact that "costing out building new schools requires bringing in outside help."
"The school board and administration is costing out other options in house," Lyon added. "I agree there has to be an even-handed look at all options on the table. But I thought there was."
Cosentino said last week "costing out other options has been ongoing through my office."
"I'm looking at the problem -- that was brought to me -- as the instructional leader of a pre-K to 12 school district," Cosentino said, "as it will play out for the next 20 years."
"Putting pre-K to second-grade at Burnham School in Bridgewater and third through fifth 5th grades at Booth Free in Roxbury will not solve the initial problem that led us to this point," she added.