MONROE, Maine — When the RSU 3 board voted Tuesday night to keep the Monroe Elementary School open, a mighty cheer ran through the school gymnasium as about 200 students, parents and community members showed their joy at the decision.
The school board members had considered closing the 54-student elementary school in order to save the district an estimated $211,000 annually. The money equals about 1 percent of the district’s $18.5 million annual budget. But in the end, just one member of the board — Phil Shibles of Knox — voted in favor of closing it down.
“I think you can’t really put a cost on what this school brings to the community,” Nicholas Tripp of Monroe, whose daughter is in third grade, said after the vote.
His 8-year-old daughter Trinity Tripp said that the results of the vote made her happy.
“Because I don’t have to go to a different school,” she said.
The vote was held at the beginning of a regular school board meeting for the 11-town district. Jeremy Martin of Monroe, Lisa Cooley of Jackson, Kathy Cunningham of Freedom, Katherine Eickenberg of Liberty, Helen Sahadi of Thorndike, Ryan Harnden of Waldo, Rachel Katz of Troy, Linda Lord of Brooks and Christine Legore of Montville voted to keep it open. Najean Shedyak of Unity was absent.
Had the board voted differently, children from Monroe and Jackson, which also sends student there, would have been bused to Morse Memorial School in Brooks.
That might not have been the worst thing that could happen, Shibles said.
“What we do tonight will have a direct effect on the budget. Certainly we cannot again raise taxes,” he said.
In order to reduce the budget by $200,000 the district will have to make significant cuts somewhere else, he pointed out. Other board members echoed this thought.
The $200,000 will add up to “big, big money” over the next five years, Lord said. As one example of a possible budget cut, Lord said that no parent in the room would like for their children to go without learning foreign languages at the high school.
“I almost feel like it’s darned if we do and damned if we don’t,” she said about the school closure vote.
Martin talked about the importance of the school.
“I understand people’s concern about taxes going up,” he said. “[But] the value of the school is far greater than $200,000 a year.”
Superintendent Heather Perry said after the vote that the district may be in a rough fiscal spot for the next budget because its property values have risen 3 percent while overall the statewide average is down 2 percent.
“We’ll be losing some revenue,” she said.
The next step for the board will be to look at next year’s budget and find some places to save money, Perry said.
But money wasn’t the most important factor to most in the crowd, including parent Ann Hartley of Jackson.
“I’m very happy,” she said after the vote. “Smaller classrooms make a big different. And the teachers are irreplaceable.”