ALBION — Administrators for the school district based in Fairfield are pushing forward with plans to consolidate students at a new school, but some people in Albion are objecting to the effort because it would result in the closure of the town’s school.

Kara Kugelmeyer, an Albion resident and former member of Maine School Administrative District 49’s board of directors, said she believes the district hasn’t fully considered the impact the closures would have on Albion and Clinton, towns that each would lose their only school. In order to get the information out to Albion residents, she created a website and sent letters to all town residents.

“I do feel like getting money from the state to build a new building for a district is a great win — I’m not in denial of that,” Kugelmeyer said. “But that can be true at the same time that closing a school in a town is a terrible loss, both of those things can be true.”

The process for the new building began several years ago when school districts across the state sent the Maine Department of Education applications for money to pay for school construction. In 2018, the state released a priority list of 74 schools, ranking Fairfield Primary School No. 1, Clinton Elementary School No. 39 and Albion Elementary School No. 58.

MSAD 49 hired CHA Architecture, a Portland-based firm, to work on the district’s project. After surveying the elementary schools the firm recommended a plan that would move all kindergarten through second grade classes to Benton Elementary School, and third through sixth grade to a new building — a recommendation that was accepted by the district’s building committee and school board.

Consolidation is not required by the state to receive funding, district Superintendent Roberta Hersom said, but it is encouraged for the sake of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The district has continued with site selection for the new building and identified a property next to Benton Elementary School as the ideal spot.

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The school board will hold a meeting Wednesday at Lawrence Junior High School to discuss the site selection process. It will include a presentation from architects about the site for the new building and allow time for questions.

“We very much want the community to understand the process and rationale for the selection, and hopefully build enthusiasm for this opportunity for a state-funded building project that will not only alleviate the financial impact of multiple aging facilities, but provide our students and community with a state-of-the art building designed to meet the district’s needs for many years to come,” Hersom said in an email.

Kugelmeyer argues that losing Albion Elementary School would put a financial burden on the town. Staying in the district means the town would continue to be responsible for a portion of the cost, including whatever expense the new building creates that isn’t covered by the state.

She further argues that not having a school in town, coupled with longer bus rides for students, make the town less attractive to families considering moving to the area.

Kugelmeyer said one consideration is for the town to leave the school district and transition to a school choice model.

“When you look at what’s going to happen to your community — the community who’s not getting the new school in their town — it’s just not a win for us,” Kugelmeyer said. “So I’m not in favor of it, because I think it’s not a win for our town. I think we would be much better served with school choice.”

If the town left the district it could instead contract with multiple districts in the area, allowing families to choose what school they want to attend. Kugelmeyer said this option would be less expensive than staying in the district because Albion would only have to pay districts on a per pupil basis.

Kugelmeyer emphasized that even if the town leaves the district, families can still choose to attend school in MSAD 49, they would just have more options.

Kugelmeyer said she’s working to bring the issue to the Albion Town Meeting in March. The question for residents would be to open negotiations with the district to leave. The town would begin negotiating and any final decision would come back to residents for another vote.

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