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October 28. 2013 12:45AM

Middleton mulls withdrawing students from Farmington

MIDDLETON — Some local officials and residents feel it is in the best interest to withdraw all students from Farmington, send some to Gov. Wentworth and build an elementary school in town.

As a result, members of the Committee to Study the Feasibility of Withdrawal from the Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) Agreement have refined their draft report, which proposes transferring students in grades 7 to 12 from Farmington to Wolfeboro by 2015 and students in prekindergarten through grade 6 the following year, contingent upon state approval and residents accepting the withdrawal plan and agreeing to build an elementary school.

Preliminary report due

The committee is required to send its findings to the NH Board of Education by Nov. 26.

School Board members Linda Adamo and Ken Garry and alternate member Selectman Joe Bailey held an informal community discussion Thursday, as there was no quorum.

Garry, who has been working on the financial aspects of the study, said little time is left to finish the draft report before it can be reviewed by legal counsel before being finalized.

Last year, local residents voted for the district to study the feasibility of withdrawing as some people raised concerns about the quality of education and the tuition rate to Farmington.

"I understand there's frustration about the apportionment, but we really need to focus on the students," Garry said Thursday.

Previously the committee, which is composed of officials from Middleton and Farmington, was considering the feasibility of withdrawing — either partially or entirely — from the existing AREA agreement, which was enacted with Farmington in 1972, and entering a tuition agreement with Gov. Wentworth.

The change to a single option came as Middleton officials believed counterparts in Farmington have become less willing to educate the town's students if Middleton withdraws grades 7-12.



Building an elementary school

Garry estimated it could cost $4.9 million to construct an elementary school to educate local students in prekindergarten through grade 6. He added the district must determine operating costs.

Garry said changes in student enrollment numbers, tuition rates and absence of debt makes building a school "a lot more palatable" than in previous years.

In 2004, members of N.H. School Administrators Association estimated it would cost $4.8 million to construct a school — on the district's 55-acre parcel along King's Highway — for local students in kindergarten through grade 5 and $6.1 million to construct a school for kindergarten through grade 8.

These figures did not include operating expenses or any costs — including debt from building the Valley View Community School in Farmington — to withdraw student from the AREA agreement.

On Sept. 11, the School Board voted to establish the committee to explore the idea of building an elementary school in Middleton. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to submit their name to the selectman's secretary at 473-5202 by Oct. 28.

For more information, go to sau61.org and middletonnh.gov.

jquinn@newstote.com


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