BINGHAM — Residents in School Administrative District 13 will vote Monday on whether to close Quimby Middle School as a means of addressing declining enrollment and lack of need for a third school in the district.

“Unfortunately, enrollment is going down across the state and across New England,” SAD 13 Superintendent Virginia Rebar said. “A lot of that pertains to businesses closing. A lot of communities are forced to. It’s not something that’s atypical, and this is entirely up to the district. If they want to keep the school open despite declining enrollment, that’s something they can do.”

The current enrollment in the grades 4 through 6 school is about 45 students, though that number is expected to drop to around 25 students by the 2023-2024 school year.

School board members voted unanimously in November to seek state approval to close Quimby Middle School. Voters will get to have their say Monday during a referendum at the middle school gymnasium and auditorium.

Polls will be open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Officials in the district, which is composed of Bingham and Moscow, have talked on and off since 2009 about closing the school as a way to respond to declining enrollment and save money.

The school board has voted on the issue at least five times since December 2009, and a survey conducted in 2013 found a majority of residents  favored closing the school.

Rebar said the district received mixed feedback from residents at a public hearing earlier this month.

“Schools represent the heartbeat of a town,” she said. “They represent a lot of history. For our area, it’s one of the primary activities that goes on, and so you’re going to have mixed feelings, and that certainly came across at the hearing.”

While the board has voted to close the school and received approval from the Department of Education, there is a chance it could remain open if voters reject the idea Monday.

However, if residents opt to keep the school open, the municipalities would become responsible for one year for funding the district’s estimated savings if they were to close the school.

That number has been determined to be $66,855, Rebar said.

The financial burden on the municipality or municipalities, if they vote to keep the school open, would last only for one year, after which things would revert to normal.

The board would have to start the process over and seek a new approval from the state if it was still interested in closing the school.

In the last eight years, enrollment in the district has dropped from a total of 254 to 179. The district predicts a total of 138 students five years from now, in 2023-2024.

The district’s other schools are Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School and Moscow Elementary School.

If voters choose to close Quimby Middle School, Rebar said, the decision would take effect July 1. Fourth-graders would be moved to Moscow Elementary School and fifth- and sixth-graders would join seventh- and eighth-graders at the high school.

She said it’s not clear what would happen to the school building, which dates to 1951, but options could include acquisition by the town of Bingham or putting the space up for sale.

“It’s been an ongoing topic of discussion for quite a while,” Rebar said. “We have three schools, and it’s been something brought up now and then for a while. Now it’s come time for an official decision to be made by the communities.”

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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