RANDOLPH — Town officials have scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday at 6 p.m. to allow Randolph residents to have their say about a plan by the Gardiner-area school district to close the town’s elementary school.

Town resident David Cobb, who asked for the meeting, is hoping that residents will be able to give their thoughts on the move.

“The town as a whole has not had any say in this,” Cobb said. “We’re hoping people will come and talk and take a straw poll (on) if people want to keep the school open.”

Last fall, the departure of the teacher for the combined second and third grade class at T.C. Hamlin shortly after the start of the school year led to those students being transferred to the Pittston Consolidated School when a replacement teacher could not be found. In some cases, their siblings were also transferred.

That left only 44 students in a school with a capacity for 155; currently 41 students are enrolled.

The School Administrative District 11 School Board created an ad hoc committee, made up of district board members, district administrative staff and school staff as well as Randolph residents and town elected officials.

While the ad hoc committee’s meetings were held in public, no public comment was taken.

In early January, the committee recommended to the full school board that the school be closed at the end of this school year, after considering a range of factors including demographics, financial impacts, student and teacher development and transportation logistics. To accommodate those students, a modular building with four classrooms would be added in Pittston.

While the school board was expected to make a decision on Jan. 25 following a public forum in Randolph attended by about 65 people, board members opted to delay the decision because they wanted more information about several loans outstanding for work done to the Randolph school building.

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at the Gardiner Regional Middle School cafeteria for that vote.

If the board chooses closure, Randolph voters will be given a chance to vote on the decision. If they opt to overrule the school board, Randolph property tax payers will be required to pay the annual cost of keeping the school open, which could be as much as $500,000 a year.

That, Cobb said, is about a third of the town’s budget; if the town votes to keep the school open, property taxes would increase.

Kerri Malinowski plans to attend the Randolph hearing.

While Malinowski is a Pittston resident, she’s concerned about the impact the closure of the Randolph school will have in her town’s school, including overcrowded classrooms and a lack of resources available to keep the current level of services now provided to Pittston students.

“There hasn’t been a commitment of resources to maintain the same level,” she said.

She has reviewed the information, and she thinks there are better options, including allowing the Randolph students to be absorbed into all the elementary schools across the district.

“You could avoid the massive influx of students and avoid the need for a modular unit,” she said.

She said she plans to attend the Pittston selectmen’s meeting the following night to bring up the issue, but she’s not sure a similar public meeting could be held in her town.

“We’re running out of time,” she said.

With a Feb. 26 deadline with public notice requirements, that leaves only school vacation week for a Pittston public hearing.

“I’m not sure if the school board members of Pittston have presented this to the select board. I don’t know how much the selectmen understand the issue,” she said.

The future of the elementary school has been debated before.

Since 2010, school district officials have considered the use of space across the district, which is Gardiner, West Gardiner, Randolph and Pittston. Part of that was examining enrollment at the elementary schools in Randolph and Pittston and whether elementary grades could be split between the two — kindergarten through second grade at one school, and third through fifth grade at the other.

After considering that option as well as redistricting, the school board took no action.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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