ATHENS — A town committee examining the community’s relationship with the local school district is recommending withdrawal from the district.

Dan Viles, chairman of the Athens Education Exploratory Committee, said his group has studied the issue since voters established the group at the annual Town Meeting in March.

“What we’re recommending is withdraw from RSU 59,” Viles said Friday, “and we’re recommending in the future joining AOS 94, which includes Harmony and Dexter.”

Two public meetings are scheduled this week for information on the recommended withdrawal of the town from Madison-based School Administrative District 59.

The meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Athens Exhibition Hall and 10 a.m. Saturday at the Athens Grange Hall.

The committee’s goal is to guarantee that Athens Elementary School remains a pre-kindergarten-through-grade 8 school, with local control over the school budget and how and what the children learn, according to details of the plan on the group’s website. High school students would have a choice of where to attend classes.

Under the committee recommendation, Athens would operate within a group of independent school units known as an alternative organizational structure to share the cost of administration, special services and transportation but maintain independent control of the school curriculum and the local budget.

It would form its own school board with its own budget and would send members to sit on the AOS board.

The alternative structure is one of the ways school districts may be organized under the school consolidation law passed in 2008.

Districts also may be organized into a regional school unit. They have a single governing body responsible for creating a budget and administering all of the functions of member towns. It is similar to the former school administrative districts and has the power to close the Athens school by a vote of the school board, according to the committee. Many districts continue to use the school administrative district title, even though the structure has changed.

The communities in SAD 59 are Athens, Brighton Plantation and Madison. The town of Starks seceded last year. The district closed Starks Elementary School in 2010.

Residents of Brighton Plantation also have formed an exploratory committee and could join Athens in leaving the district. Children from Brighton Plantation attend the Athens school.

David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said in March that if Athens decides to withdraw from the district, Madison would remain the only member of the district. There are provisions in state law for withdrawing from a school district, but none for dissolving one, he said.

Emotions flared in January with a proposal to move about 35 Athens junior high students to Madison next year in an attempt to save money. The district was trying to close a $400,000-to-$600,000 gap left by the secession of Starks.

The school board in February unanimously voted not to move the students, but the town’s share of school district continues to rise, and residents fear the school board’s goal is to close their school. Residents at the annual Town Meeting expressed frustration with the town’s apparent lack of equal representation on the school board and a feeling of helplessness if Madison board members vote as a block to move students from Athens to Madison in the future or to close the Athens school.

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