Greenville residents to petition school committee to postpone elementary school closing

Posted Sept. 01, 2011, at 7:40 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — The Greenville School Committee’s plan to relocate Nickerson Elementary School students into the middle and high school later this fall is facing some organized opposition.

The school committee voted last month to close the elementary school but left it up to Greenville Superintendent Beth Lorigan. Lorigan said last month that she planned to do that in late October when work has been completed on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the Oakes building.

The consolidation into the Oakes building is necessary because of health and safety concerns in the elementary school, according to Lorigan. She cited a limited study conducted in June that identified concerns about an open air shaft in the boiler room, the roof and rodent feces above the suspended ceilings in the school, among other problems.

While the school’s closing has been discussed for several years, some residents are particularly concerned about the timing and the disruption it will bring to all pupils, according to middle-school parent John Simko, one of the petition organizers. In addition, he believes the details for the proposed move have not been thoroughly worked out. Simko said it would be much better if the committee delayed the closing for at least another year so a committee of parents and school officials could work out the details of security and housing the pupils.

“I’m more concerned with the disruption,” Simko said Thursday.

According to state law, those residents opposed to the school closing can submit a petition to the school committee within 30 days of its vote to close the school, signed by 10 percent of the registered voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election. The petition asks that the closing be postponed until August 2012; that the school committee adequately fund the heating and maintenance of the elementary school through the 2011-2012 school year; and that prior to the 2012-2013 school year, it makes whatever improvements are needed for the consolidation.

Simko said he believed organizers have more than the needed 94 signatures, which shows the concern of residents across the board. He said the feelings run the gamut from those who support the closing but not during a school year to those who believe the elementary school should remain open. Others, including Simko, believe there is much work to be done in the Oakes building before such a move is made.

Simko said the organizers plan to present the petitions to the superintendent before the close of the 30-day period. The school committee at its Sept. 19 meeting can act on the request to postpone the school closing this year or forward the matter to a referendum vote.

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