A crowd was on hand to hear the final vote on which elementary school would close.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — 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.
"This is short-term solution and we have to think about the future …I wish we did not have to make this decision but our budget demands us to do something," Superintendent of Schools Robert Putnam said. "What we do tonight is not necessarily what the future is."
Of the two votes taken on which school keep open, three Cheshire representatives — Darlene Rodowicz, Peter Tatro and Edmund St. John IV — voted to keep Cheshire Elementary School open and the four Adams representatives — Stephan Vigna, Regina Hill, Jennifer Gageant and Paul Butler — voted to keep C.T. Plunkett School open.
Before voting the School Committee members made final statements.
Vigna said his decision was based on all the data and input from the public but he also put himself in the shoes of the students and felt the more recently renovated Plunkett offered a better educational opportunity.
"Some would say improving education is only made attributable through more dollars, and this may be true but I always agreed that the environment in which a student learns plays just as an important role in their overall education," Vigna said.
Hill said that although she saw great things in both schools, she felt Plunkett offered more space, more opportunity and would allow for more enrollment in the future.
"I believe that the only sound decision educationally and more responsible decision fiscally that I can support is to close Cheshire and consolidate into C.T. Plunkett," Hill said.
On the Cheshire side, St. John said closing Cheshire would only take additional transportation reimbursement funds and other savings out of the classroom.
"We hear the needs of our teachers and staff and they need support and we need to be able to ensure funding not only for this year but for the years to come," he said. "My fear is closing Cheshire does not put any resources back into the classroom … I feel like it is educationally irresponsible to take those funds away from our children."
Rodowicz said both schools can handle the number of children and will house the same teachers so the education will not change. What will change is increased funding that can help improve education if Cheshire were to stay open.
Residents filled a majority of the Hoosac Valley auditorium and those who spoke reiterated arguments for each building made in the many past public meetings to gather input from the residents. However, some residents asked that both communities look forward.
"This feels a little bit like a Band Aid and there is a long term we have to look at. We close a school either one is a long-term solution," Cheshire resident John Tremblay said. "I challenge the leaders of both towns to come together along with the people and not have it be Adams against Cheshire."
Putnam said he would like to create a committee with members of both towns to create a vision for the future of the district that both communities can get behind. With a substantial renovation or new build over five years away, he said there is time to create this vision.
The School Committee will vote on the fiscal 2018 budget Monday. The budget scenarios range from cutting staff and only hiring a few of the recently recommended positions to stay within a 3 percent increase for Adams to a budget that will have all five recommended positions but that will require a Proposition 2 1/2 override.
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