by Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — The Bridgewater-Hebron Withdrawal Study Committee has concluded that, while feasible, it would not be desirable to secede from the Newfound Area School District at this time.
Committee Chair Patrick Moriarty of Hebron and Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater voted against the motion to end the study.
Bristol Selectman Rick Alpers announced the committee's decision at his board's meeting on Oct. 16, saying it means there will be no warrant article in March and no need to move ahead with the study now that the Newfound Area School Board has responded to the towns' persistent request to pull the sixth graders from the middle school and return their classes to the elementary schools.
"The school board is finally doing something, and that has appeased a lot of parents," Alpers said.
Migliore, who had predicted that directing the superintendent to come up with an implementation plan for a K-6 educational structure would appease Bridgewater and Hebron residents, said in a telephone interview that he wanted to go forward with the withdrawal in any case, "because I understand the politics of how this is going to play out".
He explained that, because the superintendent will not present her implementation plan until April, it will give those who disagreed with the decision a chance to elect new school board members who might reverse the vote. "The report won't be until after the elections in the spring, and there will be two or three new members on the board," Migliore said. "There may be enough votes to make that happen, and then Groton, Bridgewater, and Hebron will vote to go forward again with withdrawal."
Alpers who was among the selectmen serving on the study committee, said he is optimistic about the future. "What came out of these meetings was, let's bring all the selectmen together to share resources, and have a greater discussion," he said. "We have this $22 million school district with a failed business model. We need to look at what will happen if we do change, and what else we can do to save money."
Alpers continued, "We've got a problem. If the numbers continue to decline, in a few years, we will have the same number of students as when we started the district, with all these extra facilities."
Selectman Shaun Lagueux pointed out that the school board had not yet made a decision on what will happen with the middle school after the sixth graders are removed, leaving only seventh and eighth graders in the building. He added that the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School can accommodate sixth graders but some of the other elementary schools will be hard-pressed to find the space for the additional classes.
During the public comment period, resident John Sellers said his concern with the school board's decision in not addressing the future of the middle school at the same time is that it might leave Bristol with a higher educational cost.
When it made the decision to implement a K-6 educational model, the school board sidestepped the issue of Newfound Memorial Middle School's future, suggesting that the central office, currently in rented space, might be moved into the building, along with special services and other offerings by the school district. Superintendent Stacy Buckley will need to address those issues in her April report.
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