Photo: 181129-news-derryhearing

Nearly 250 people attended the school board meeting to speak out against closing a school, something the board is studying.

DERRYThe idea of closing a school as a cost-saving measure prompted more than 200 residents to attend a school board meeting Tuesday at which the subject was discussed.

Although no decision has been made about whether to close a school, several studies on the topic have been conducted over the past four years.

A report from Superintendent Mary Ann Connors-Krikorian at a meeting last month outlining “viable options” for how to reallocate students if an elementary school was closed reignited Tuesday’s discussion.

Most of Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled to give the public a chance to weigh in on the presentation. Virtually all the residents who spoke expressed concerns over how closing a school in their neighborhood would affect educational quality.

Some focused on how a closure would affect property values in a neighborhood, and questioned what, if any, financial benefits it would have.

A couple of parents spoke about having experienced a school closure themselves when they were young and said they didn’t want their kids to have to go through the same thing.

Robert Knapp, a parent whose children went through South Range Elementary School, told the board the school is like family to him.

“I love my neighbors and my neighborhood, and I don’t want it to change for a few dollars,” Knapp said.

Nancy Parsons, an educator with more than 30 years of experience and a current reading assistant at Grinnell Elementary School, said Grinnell is not the district’s “showpiece.”

“It’s the invisible school in Derry,” Parsons said.

No financial information was offered in the viable options report, but a potential cost-savings analysis is planned for the next board meeting on Dec. 11.

A survey was created by board members Dan McKenna and Erika Cohen. It was sent out digitally Wednesday and paper copies will be available at town hall, the public library, the parks and recreation department and the Marion Gerrish Community Center. A link to the survey was also made available on the town website Wednesday.

The survey will ask residents for their input to gauge community interest in closing a school.

McKenna said the survey period will close on Dec. 14.

Board Chairman Lynn Perkins said the board was pleased with how the event went, but was troubled by some of the “hyperbole” and personal attacks against board members.

“It bothers me that people generalize and their position is that we just should not have any larger class sizes,” Perkins said. “That’s an impractical approach to the financial aspects of what we’re dealing with.”

He said enrollment is decreasing and class sizes are shrinking. South Range has some of the smallest classes, which fall below the district’s class-size standards.

“This is an analysis of what we have looked at for three years, trying to create a stable path for the district and for the town going forward,” Perkins said.

ldnews@unionleader.com