ATHENS — The town is taking another step toward pulling out of the local school district and preserving its small pre-kindergarten-through-grade eight school.

On Saturday, the Board of Selectmen will hold a meeting to discuss the withdrawal petition by the Athens Education Exploratory Committee.

“This is the next step in the withdrawal process,” said Dan Viles, chairman of the committee. “It is a purely informational public hearing. We will be discussing specifically a vote to pursue withdrawal.”

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Academy Town Hall and will address when to hold a vote in October to determine whether the town will form an official withdrawal committee. That committee would begin negotiating the distribution of district assets and debts should Athens secede from School Administrative District 59, which also includes Madison and Brighton Plantation.

The withdrawal committee would also make an official proposal regarding how Athens would educate children after withdrawing.

The October vote will be nonbinding, which means that Athens residents would have a chance to see and review negotiations with the Madison school board before casting a final vote on withdrawal.

District Superintendent Todd LeRoy said the Madison district has not taken a stand on Athens’ plans.

“I have heard from a lot of places that people in Athens are afraid we will close their school,” he said. “The board has no intention of doing this, but they have every right to pursue withdrawal if they think that is best for their kids.”

“This isn’t about Athens hates Madison,” said Karen Corson, a representative of Athens on the district school board. “It’s about what can Athens do to preserve Athens?”

The committee was established at the annual Town Meeting in March to look into withdrawing. Its goals, according to its website, are to guarantee that Athens Elementary remains a pre-kindergarten-through-grade eight school with local control over the curriculum and school budget.

The plan if the withdrawal goes through would be for Athens Elementary to join Alternative Organizational Structure 94, sharing a core group of administrative officials with the towns in the group, but maintaining individual control over school budget and curriculum. The town would have its own school board, but would share a superintendent, special services director and transportation director.

AOS 94 includes the Dexter School District and Harmony Elementary School. Students would have a choice of where to attend high school.

Earlier this year there was also discussion of moving the seventh- and eighth-grade students from Athens to Madison to save the district money. It was never formally proposed but did prompt many parents in Athens to take an interest in preserving the school in their town.

The committee expressed concern when Madison Junior High School was designated a continuous improvement priority school by the state last year and that combining seventh- and eighth-grade classes could compromise the education of Athens students. The designation indicates a school has not met educational targets for at least two years in a row.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

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