CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen are pessimistic of the odds on keeping Cheshire School open, noting the town's outvoted on the regional school committee.
It's a possible outcome, they say, that will leave the community "devastated."
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee has been mulling the closure of one of the two elementary schools for more than a year as a way to ease its financial crunch. A recent report by an outside consultant laid out the numbers, and the case for Cheshire wasn't great. Even if chosen, it would require renovation and possibly an addition to accommodate children from Adams.
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.
"There are four Adams school committee members and three Cheshire school committee members,” Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said. "Unless one of the Adams school committee members goes rogue. ..
"You would like to think they would vote on what's best for the education of the children but I have no idea."
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.
"I know we all want the best for education and someone is going to lose but what a blow that would be to Cheshire," Ciskowski said. "Honesty, I have seen nothing like that ever happen in Cheshire in my lifetime, and if it that school closes, I think the community would be devastated."
Francesconi said the town is still interested in reviewing the regional school district agreement to see what its options are. She said splitting up the elementary schools and the town funding its own school is still a possibility.
"Would it be a good idea to have no school or to fund our own school?" she said. "It is going cost big bucks one way or the other ... but I think we have a lot of options to look at."
She added that the school may attract more students who school choice in.
The University of Massachusetts' Collins Center, which provided alternative models, listed splitting the district as an option but said it would cost Cheshire $800,000 more just to maintain the services it has now.
Ciskowski also had concerns about winterizing the school if it is chosen to close.
"I don't mean to downer but if that school is not going to be a school, we have to think about winterizing it,” he said. "I don't know if we could afford to keep it heated and not use it."
The Selectmen still had questions about the report and were concerned that many of the maintenance issues at Plunkett were not quantified. Over the years, the School Committee has applied to the Massachusetts School Building Authority to renovate Cheshire. Because of this, Cheshire's building issues have been well documented.
Board members said they plan to ask Superintendent Robert Putnam about problems at C.T. Plunkett School when he meets with them in the near future.
The board did agree that they had a lot of faith in the interim superintendent, who was recently asked to join the district permanently.
"I am glad Dr. Putnam is here," Ciskowski said. "What kind of guy retires than takes on this burden and responsibility. We are so fortunate to have him at the helm."
In other business, Ciskowski asked if the town had any regulations preventing ice fishermen from running their augers in the early morning.
"I was cleaning my chimney Sunday morning and I heard one at 5:45 in the morning in my cellar,” he said. "I am not trying to take away from sportsmen but I would never go out and start cutting firewood that early with my chainsaw because I know it would upset people ... I can't imagine what that sounds like to people who live on the lake.”
Francesconi said because town meeting refused to pass a noise bylaw last year, there is nothing they can do. She added that it still is a problem.
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