ATHENS — The town will form an official committee to look into withdrawing from School Administrative District 59, the result of a few-months-long push by a group of parents and community members known as the Athens Education Exploratory Committee.

“It really seems to be in our best interest to make a withdrawal from the school district. The district has changed and many people feel it has been difficult for Athens parents and residents to have a say in what is the best interest of our students,” said Dan Viles, chairman of the exploratory committee.

The measure passed, 129-12 in a vote at Town Hall Friday night.

The vote is non-binding, which means that Athens residents will have a chance to review negotiations with the district school board over the next 90 days before casting a final vote on withdrawal.

Viles said the next step for the town is to notify the state Department of Education and set up a meeting with the local school district, SAD 59, which also includes Madison and Brighton Plantation. The committee will be appointed by the selectmen and must include two members of the community, one selectman and a school board member from Athens, according to the state Department of Education website.

“This vote was nerve wracking because I just really hope it passes,” said Vicky Avery, 35, at the polls Friday night. She is a member of the exploratory committee and a mother of two children in the district.

She said that being able to have school choice for high school students and being able to preserve Athens Elementary as a small kindergarten through grade 8 school were important to her decision to vote for forming the committee.

According to the website of the Athens Education Exploratory Committee, the plan right now would be for Athens Elementary to join Alternative Organizational Structure 94, a district composed of other small towns that share a core group of administrative officials but maintain individual control over school budget and curriculum. Students would have a choice of where to attend high school.

“If we can do this we can offer free choice to our high schoolers where parents and children can choose the high school that best meets their needs,” she said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
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