Albion residents at the hearing support the start-up process to explore the school district’s departure from the Fairfield area

Albion Elementary School is set to close as part of a building consolidation plan being pursued by School Administrative Unit 49. This has prompted Albion residents to consider removing the town from the school district, with a initial vote expected in June. Michael G. Seamans / Morning Watchman

ALBION — Residents have expressed support for the city to begin the process of leaving the school district ahead of a special town assembly vote on the matter.

The city held a public hearing Monday night into the referendum question, which would create a withdrawal committee to begin negotiating with Maine School Administrative District 49 and allow the committee to spend up to $45,000 on an attorney and other expenses in the process. The special municipal election for the show will take place on Friday, June 10, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Besse Building.

Organizers, who fear Albion Elementary School could be closed as part of a building consolidation plan proposed by SAD 49, stressed that this was not a final approval to leave the district, but instead would allow the city to further explore all of its options. If it turns out that leaving the neighborhood is not financially feasible for the municipality, the process can be stopped at any time.

“We are not locked into anything; it’s just to allow us to keep our options open,” said Billie-Jo Brown-Woods, one of the organizers behind the pullout effort. Woods is also one of Albion’s representatives on the SAD 49 board, but stressed Monday that she was speaking as a resident, not a school board member.

If the referendum is approved by voters, the city will begin the 22-step process outlined by the Maine Department of Education to opt out of the district, which currently serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield. Once negotiations with the District are complete and there is a final agreement with details of how Albion and the District will operate going forward, there will be another city-wide vote to secure the final approval to leave the district.

The majority of residents who spoke at Monday night’s hearing supported the plan and strengthened local control over the education of Albion students. Likewise, some said they were frustrated that they had to pay taxes for education, but that money wouldn’t really stay in Albion.

“That’s the thing — the first vote is a leap of faith,” said Kara Kugelmeyer, a former SAD 49 school board member and fellow organizer behind the pullout effort. “I’m not going to lie. I cannot answer all questions. But what I can say is exactly what we said here: “Do you want your tax money to go to Benton, or do you want your tax money to stay local?”

The idea to pull out came as the district began the process of building a new school and decided to consolidate several buildings into the new school, which would mean the closure of Fairfield Elementary School, the Clinton Elementary School and Albion Elementary School.

Many locals said on Monday they were upset about the closure of Albion Elementary School, especially since the new building would be built in Benton, which means longer bus journeys for young children in ‘Albion to get to school.

Residents also pointed out that Albion Elementary currently has smaller class sizes and a strong sense of community where teachers know all students and students know all teachers. And that would be hard to have in a new, larger school building, residents said.

“When I drop my kids off in the morning, every teacher who sees my kids – whether they’ve been in their class or not – knows their name, knows who they are, knows who I am. I know all the teachers there” , Woods said, “It won’t be the same in a school that has, you know, 400 or 500 kids.”

Others also said they were worried about how the school’s closure would affect the town’s future, as it would be much less attractive to young families looking to move there.

While there are no concrete details yet on what it would look like if the town left the district, it would likely mean the town would create its own school district to run Albion Elementary School for younger students. . Once students left elementary school, families could choose a nearby district for the upper grades.

“Voting yes on June 10 is a no-brainer because it just starts a process you can walk out of at any time,” an unidentified resident said. “Don’t offend anyone in the community, but voting ‘no’ on this makes absolutely no sense.”

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Michael A. May