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March 13. 2013 10:50PM

ConVal district votes to keep middle school open


Jess Gerrior and her children -- twins Maggie and Willow, 8, and son Ryan, 12, -- stand on Route 202 Tuesday afternoon across from the Antrim Town Hall opposing Article 8 on the ConVal School District ballot that would close Antrim's Great Brook middle school and consolidate the district middle school education to South Meadow South in Peterborough. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

ANTRIM - A push to close Great Brook School failed 2,819 to 1,622 at the polls Tuesday.

The petition article was brought forth by former school board member Gail Cromwell of Temple and Sharon resident Mark Fernald. The petition asked voters to close the middle school that serves Antrim, Hancock, Bennington and Francestown students and consolidate the Contoocook Valley Regional School District middle school education to South Meadow School in Peterborough that serves Peterborough, Greenfield, Dublin, Temple and Sharon students.

"Right now it's an attraction to people in Antrim where they can watch their kids grow up from kindergarten to eighth grade in their own town," said Antrim Police Chief Scott Lester on Tuesday.

Many families on Tuesday stood in the rain outside of their town polling places to oppose the petition article to close the school, including Jess Gerrior of Antrim and her three children.

"Our schools are just a tremendous community asset, and I think the closer to home we can educate our kids the better," Gerrior said.

On Wednesday, Cromwell, who was elected to the Temple Select Board Tuesday, said an emotional reaction to closing the school and misinformation about overcrowding led to the defeat.

"It's unfortunate that people did vote emotionally and with somewhat incorrect information," Cromwell said. "I'm afraid that the result will be that we will now have two middle schools, each of which are too small to be affective."

Far from being over crowded, South Meadow School has the capacity for 625 students, and if the sixth through eighth grade students of both middle schools were combined, the count would be 468 students, she said.

Enrollment in the district continues to decline, she said.

Cromwell said she understand the importance of a school in each town. Her plan to consolidate the middle school would have bolstered enrollment in the town elementary schools by moving fifth grade education from the middle schools back to the elementary schools.

Sharon is the only ConVal town without an elementary school.

"We have gone from 3,100 students to 2,300, and what they are projecting in the next few years is under 2,000," she said of district-wide enrollment.

Another petition article to raise $80,000 to fund a school resource officer also failed 3,084 to 1,164.


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