Cheshire residents are exploring ways to keep their elementary school open even as the regional district prepares to relocate its students to other schools.
More than 150 parents and community members attended a public forum moderated by the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night to hash out possibilities to keep the school running or resurrect it later.
Nearly 20 people, mostly from Cheshire aired their concerns at Monday's Adams-Cheshire Reigonal School Committee meeting during public comment. They felt closing Cheshire worked counterintuitively to the committee's goal to increase programming and resources in the classroom.
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee voted 4-3 to close Cheshire Elementary School on Thursday night, splitting along town lines.
The anticipated vote came after a nearly two hour meeting at Hoosac Valley High School and was one of five taken to reconfigure the regional school district, including moving Grades 4 and 5 up to Hoosac Valley.
The fate of Adams-Cheshire Regional's two elementary was put for another week after the School Committee bowed to pressure to review other options.
School officials had been expected to decide whether to close C.T. Plunkett or Cheshire Elementary on Thursday night and a subdued crowd partially filled the Hoosac Valley High School auditorium, bracing for the final vote.
Emotions may be getting the better of residents as the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District weighs the closing of an elementary school.
But it's no reason to be rude, say Selectmen Jeffrey Snoonian and Joseph Nowak, who blasted the behavior of Cheshire residents at a public forum earlier this week.
Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee is expected to decide whether to close one of its elementary schools on Thursday night.
Superintendent Robert Putnam says the decision comes down to space versus finances.
When the Audit and Evaluation subcommittee asked for his judgment Monday, Putnam said C.T. Plunkett in Adams offers a better space while Cheshire offers the opportunity for more staff and programming through increased transpiration reimbursement.
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District began floating the idea more than a year ago but the fact that a painful decision would have to be made became apparent this past fall. The process has moved faster than many probably expected, with the decision expected this week ahead of the fiscal 2018 budget.
The auditorium at Cheshire Elementary was packed on Monday night for the second of two public forums scheduled by the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee to gather public input to help inform their decision on which school to close. It was far cry from last week in Adams, when only handful attended the first meeting.
Adams officials spoke out forcefully on Thursday against the idea of closing C.T. Plunkett School, saying the struggling community simply could not take the hit.
Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Snoonian said closing Plunkett would be a bigger shock to Adams than the loss of a school would be to Cheshire. George Haddad, local businessman and former selectman, said it would "hasten the fall of the community."
The potential closure of an elementary school has had officials in Adams and Cheshire mulling the possibility of breaking up the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
But the options for changing the 50-year-old agreement or dissolving it all appear cumbersome and financially ineffective.
The Selectmen are wondering about cost sharing between Cheshire and Adams with the expected closing of an elementary school.
Of major concern is the town's responsibility for repairs to C.T. Plunkett School in Adams if Cheshire School should close.
Cheshire and Adams have long been tied together by history and familial bonds. For the last 50 years, that's been strengthened through a shared educational system. But dropping enrollment and the school district's struggle in the last years with ballooning budgets, has the two towns at odds over whose elementary school will close.
With the district pondering the likelihood of closing one of the schools, their condition, size and maintenance costs are expected to influence the debate. The guided tours also provided a chance for administrators to lay out the class configurations that will be part of the conversation.
Nearly 50 years ago, the two communities came together to form one regional school district. That district has endured changes in the demographics of the community, changes in the national and state economies, and changes within the education system itself. And yet, through all of this change, Adams and Cheshire have always rallied around the schools. Change has, as it so often does, bred adaption and innovation.
The Selectmen at Tuesday's meeting said they do not have high hopes that the School Committee will choose to keep the school open because the majority of the members are from Adams.
Selectman Robert Ciskowski said losing the school would be a huge hit to the town and would upset much of the planning they had set down for the future.
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District was handed an ambitious set of guidelines last week to right its financial ship. Now school officials are looking to see if any of them can be put into action.
The University of Massachusetts' Collins Center presented a number of options last week in a study commissioned by the town of Adams to review the regional school district's current and future status regarding finances and enrollment.
The Selectmen want to review the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District agreement that ties the small town to its larger neighbor to educate the children of both.
Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said at Tuesday's meeting that with the impending closing of an elementary school, she would like to review the district agreement with the Cheshire representatives on the School Committee.
Adams-Cheshire school district was presented with eight possible district configurations on Wednesday.
But none offered a clear direction forward or cure-all for the district's financial and enrollment woes.
The options were provided by the University of Massachusetts' Collins Center, which was commissioned by the town of Adams to study trends and goals for the regional district and tasked with finding potential paths forward.
The acting Adams-Cheshire Regional superintendent has been asked to remain as the permanent superintendent of schools.
The vote by the School Committee was unanimous in offering the post to Robert Putnam, who has led the three-school district in an interim capacity since July 1.
Consolidating school buildings will be among recommendations offered to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee at next week's presentation by the University of Massachusetts' Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management.
"The Cheshire Board of Selectmen is disappointed with the pre-emptive and premature statements from the Adams town government regarding the potential closing of one of the district's elementary schools," Chairman Paul Astorino said Tuesday. "We prefer to hold comment until Feb. 8 when the Collins report is released."
Adams officials are advocating against the potential closure C.T. Plunkett School as an answer to the regional school district's declining enrollment and rising budget.
Both Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco and Selectmen Chairman Jeffrey Snoonian have written letters questioning the wisdom of spending millions to renovate Cheshire Elementary School.
The problems plaguing this region have been well documented in many forums: declining and aging population, declining enrollment, stagnant revenue, 10-15 percent rise in health-care costs every year. These, among many other economic factors have hit not just here but small towns across America hard. Both C.T. Plunkett in Adams and Cheshire Elementary School have served thousands upon thousands of kids. Closing either of these schools will be difficult and perhaps even traumatizing to former and
Initial findings of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District study are clear: Something has to change.
The University of Massachusetts' Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management was commissioned to study the state of the school district and supply recommendations for its future.