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January 14. 2014 9:31PM

State OKs Middleton’s plan to withdraw from Farmington schools

CONCORD — The state Board of Education voted Tuesday to give their recommendation to Middleton’s plan to leave Farmington schools in the next few years, according to Paul Leather, deputy commissioner for the N.H. Department of Education.

“This is not binding. This is a recommendation to be attached to the warrant,” Leather said, adding the final say lies in the hands of the voters.

In March, Middleton residents must decide whether to agree to withdraw from Farmington schools, approve a tuition agreement with the Governor Wentworth Regional School District in Wolfeboro and have 60 percent of residents vote in favor of a $6.5 million bond to build a school in town.

Residents of the six communities in Governor Wentworth district — including Brookfield, Effingham, New Durham, Ossipee, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro — must also approve the tuition agreement in March.

“The withdrawal would be moot if the voters don’t approve (all articles),” Leather said.While it’s possible someone could ask the state board to reconsider, Leather said the decision will probably stand as officials considered the matter Dec. 19, asked for more information from Middleton and Farmington and met again Tuesday.

Under the current Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement most Middleton students attend Farmington schools.

After studying the issue for the past six months, Middleton officials proposed a phased withdrawal from Farmington. As a result, Grades 7-12 would attend Governor Wentworth after July 1, 2015. The remaining students in pre-kindergarten through Grade 6 would move into the new school the following year under the plan.

Earlier this month, Farmington officials discussed how their district would adjust to the “catastrophic” loss of $3 million in tuition and the reduction of about a whole class of Middleton students from each grade if the withdrawal plan is approved.

While the communities have enjoyed a long-standing relationship, Farmington School Board Chairman Joe Pitre previously said there are a lot of issues that must be resolved on both sides of the border.

In October, school officials formed a building committee to study the feasibility of building a school on a 55-acre parcel owned by the district in town. The committee will present residents with their findings at the next annual school district meeting in February.

jquinn@newstote.com


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