School Committee members said a second vote was unlikely to change anything.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The vote last week to close Cheshire Elementary School is fueling resentment in Cheshire, where residents feel School Committee didn't honor its intent to focus on education.
Maybe, some said, another vote was in order.
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.
"This was supposed to be based on the Collins Center report, financial gain and the residents' participation," Cheshire resident Michele Whitney said. "I don't feel like that's the end result that came out of this vote so I don't believe that it as a fair vote. It's money versus space and we don't have any money and you chose space."
The committee voted to close Cheshire and move all early education to C.T. Plunkett in Adams. To keep the increase in assessment to Adams under 3 percent while hiring some recommended positions, Superintendent Robert Putnam proposed some staff cuts that would eliminate home economics and an art teacher.
This did not sit well with some Cheshire attendees.
"All of these meetings that we had it was very clear that the most important piece here was the students and their opportunities and by choosing what you chose you have already taken opportunities away," Cheshire resident Jason Mendonca said. "It's very clear."
Chairman Paul Butler said residents can request a revote but the committee has made up its mind — the vote last week was split down the town line with the four Adams representatives outvoting the three Cheshire representatives.
"I think there are a lot of factors that each one of us considered very carefully for a significant amount of time that had weighed heavily on each of us," Butler said. "Some of us just disagree and we saw it as a different issue ... at the end of the day, four people felt it was not worth the additional savings to close the building with better facilities."
Other School Committee members agreed and said they were sticking to their guns.
"The rooms in Cheshire could fit but I don't think they were sufficient enough especially for special education," committee member Stephan Vigna said. "I think Plunkett offered a better space and if Plunkett were in Cheshire I would still have voted to keep it open."
Cheshire residents were also concerned that Adams would not honor its commitment to making repairs to Plunkett, such as the boiler room roof. Also, they feared that town meeting could just shoot down the expenses that then would have to be taken out of education.
Butler said the School Committee will do what it can to make sure Adams makes good on its commitment.
"They have stated that they intend to be landlords of the building so to the extent they are good to their word we will make sure that happens," Butler said.
Business Manager Erika Snyder said the costs are still built into the budget and if Adams makes the repairs the money will go toward education.
Cheshire residents also inquired if there was a cap on costs that would trigger a revote. With mold concerns in the boiler room and no final roof repair cost, there was a concern it would just become too expensive to keep Plunkett open.
Putnam said he will have a mold test in the boiler room and they should have a final cost for the roof before the final budget vote. He added that the Adams building inspector has not mentioned additional costs that would be triggered during the repair.
Adams Selectman Joseph Nowak said Cheshire Elementary also has maintenance issues and the two towns need to stop battling over the closure because a decision has been made.
"We have to get away from this and it was a tough decision but it was made," Nowak said. "Is this going to continue to pit us against each other? This is supposed to be about what is best for the children but now I think it's about what is best for the parents."
Committee member Darlene Rodowicz said she thought much of the animosity between the two towns started with the Adams leadership but agreed that both must come together.
"We now need to repair our relationship," she said. "It has been fractured."
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