Offers Region 12 advice to boost enrollment
(The following is an open letter from Tim Cook, a resident of New Preston and 1973 graduate of Shepaug Valley High School, to Dr. Pat Cosentino, the Region 12 superintendent of schools, and to the Board of Education).
Empty classrooms, storefronts and houses are now common in Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater.
As property values have soared, enrollment in our schools has declined.
Shepaug graduates are able to stay in the region only with family help, and our wealthy neighbors send their children to private school.
Far more troubling than rising per pupil costs is the decline of education, athletics and facilities in Region 12.
I offer three solutions which I presented at a meeting to discuss a possible consolidated school.
1) Ask Litchfield High School to merge with Shepaug Valley.
Our area will no longer support three high schools -- Shepaug Valley, Wamogo and Litchfield.
Wamogo is the most stable as an agricultural school, making Litchfield and Shepaug ideal partners.
The only stumbling block I foresee is the distance of Northfield from Shepaug. If Northfield parents were to be given the choice of sending their children to either Shepaug or Thomaston, a deal could be completed by September 2016.
This would immediately and permanently solve enrollment at the high school.
2) Become an agricultural school.
I am very pleased to see Shepaug is taking my suggestion to apply to become an agricultural school.
This would expand education, improve athletics and fix enrollment.
3) Give young families with two or more children $100,000 each toward down payment on a house.
If each town were to contribute $400,000 per year for five years, 60 families and 120 children would be added to the region, solving enrollment in the elementary schools.
Considering we spend more than $20 million on our operating budget annually in Region 12, comprising about 75 percent of our town budgets, this would be a very wise investment.
The sale of houses and the money spent on raising children are the two biggest factors that drive the economy.
Investment in young families would address education, affordable housing and the local economy, providing a model program for the whole country.
Fix enrollment and Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater would continue to be the best places in the world to live.