MONSON, Maine — Local residents will vote from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, on whether to keep the Monson Elementary School open.
SAD 68 directors voted earlier this spring to close the school at the end of the school year to reduce costs in the face of declining enrollment and to enhance educational opportunities for all students.
Only Monson residents will vote on the school closing because the school serves only Monson children, plus a few tuition pupils.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that we’ve come to this,” Town Manager Julie Anderson said Thursday. “Rural schools are very important. They give a good education, one-on-one attention, and they are very community orientated.” But she said she also recognizes that not every resident can afford to foot the extra costs to keep the school open.
If residents vote to keep the school open, the town will be required to pay the certified operational costs of $265,397 in addition to the yearly assessment, which for 2008-2009 was $429,811. Provided there is no increase in the yearly assessment, that vote would increase the town’s mill rate by 4 mills, according to Anderson. The present mill rate is $12.90 per $1,000 valuation.
Anderson said losing the school would be detrimental because young families will not move to town when they learn their young children will have to ride a bus 20 miles one way to Dover-Foxcroft. “It’s a half-hour of travel; it’s a big deal,” she said.
There are 36 elementary pupils attending the Monson school and no more than 31 pupils are expected next year, according to SAD 68 Superintendent Ann Bridge.
Monson’s middle and high school pupils already attend schools in Dover-Foxcroft.
In addition to voting on the school closing, residents will be asked to take a survey to gauge the interest in withdrawing from SAD 68 and sending children either to SAD 4 schools in Guilford, which is closer to Monson, or to Union 60 in Greenville, where many parents are employed, according to Anderson. A withdrawal would require legislative action.
Bridge said Thursday that once the outcome of the vote has been determined, the school board will move forward with a plan either to keep the school open or to decommission it. As part of the latter option, the board would decide the fate of the school.