Albion Elementary School is slated to be closed under a building consolidation plan being pursued by Maine School Administrative Unit 49. That has prompted Albion residents to consider withdrawing the town from the school district, with an initial vote scheduled in June. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

ALBION — Residents have expressed support for the town to begin the process of leaving the school district ahead of a special town meeting vote on the issue.

The town held a public hearing Monday evening on the referendum question, which would create a withdrawal committee to begin negotiating with Maine School Administrative District 49 and allow the committee to spend up to $45,000 for a lawyer and other expenses in the process. The special town meeting vote on the issue will be held June 10 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Besse Building.

Organizers, who are driven by concerns that Albion Elementary School would be closed under a building consolidation plan proposed by SAD 49, emphasized that this is not final approval to leave the district but would rather allow the town to further explore all of its options. If it becomes clear that leaving the district is not financially feasible for the town, the process can be stopped at any time.

“We’re not locked into anything; this is just to allow us to keep our options open,” said Billie-Jo Brown-Woods, one of the organizers behind the effort to withdraw. Woods is also one of the Albion representatives on the MSAD 49 board of directors, but emphasized Monday that she was speaking as a resident, not in her position as a school board member.

If the referendum is approved by voters, the town will begin the 22-step process laid out by the Maine Department of Education to withdraw from the district, which currently serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield. Once negotiations with the district are complete, and there is a final agreement with details on how Albion and the district will function going forward, there will be another townwide vote to obtain final approval to leave the district.

The majority of residents who spoke at Monday night’s hearing were supportive of the plan and getting stronger local control over Albion students’ education. Similarly, some said that they were frustrated that they would be paying taxes toward education, but that money wouldn’t really stay in Albion.


“This is the thing — the first vote is a leap of faith,” said Kara Kugelmeyer, a former MSAD 49 board member and another organizer behind the effort to withdraw. “I’m not gonna lie. I can’t answer every question. But what I can say is exactly what we said here: ‘Do you want your tax dollars to go to Benton, or do you want your tax dollars to stay local?'”

The idea of withdrawing came up as the district has begun the process of building a new school, and decided to consolidate several buildings into the new school, which would mean closing Fairfield Primary School, Clinton Elementary School and Albion Elementary School.

Many residents said Monday that they were upset that the Albion Elementary School would close, especially since the new building would be built in Benton, meaning longer bus rides for younger kids in Albion to get to school.

Residents also pointed out that Albion elementary currently has smaller class sizes, and a strong community feel where teachers know all the students, and the students know all of the teachers. And that would be difficult to have in a bigger new school building, residents said.

“When I drop my kids off in the morning, every teacher that sees my kids — whether they have been in their class or not — knows their name, knows who they are, knows who I am. I know every teacher there,” Woods said. “That will not be the same in a school that has you know, 400 or 500 kids in it.”

Others also said that they were concerned about how the school closure would affect the future of the town, because it would be much less appealing to young families looking to move there.

While there are no concrete details yet about what it would look like if the town left the district, it would likely mean the town would set up its own school district to run Albion Elementary School for younger students. Once students age out of the elementary school, families could choose a nearby district to attend for the upper grades.

“Voting yes on June 10 is a no-brainer, because all it does is start a process that you can get out of at any point,” one unidentified resident said. “No offense to anyone in the community, but voting ‘no’ on that makes absolutely no sense.”

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