The Libby Tozier School on Academy Road in Litchfield serves prekindergarten to grade two students. Regional School Unit 4 directors will meet Aug. 24 to certify the results of the Aug. 9 referendum in which voters resoundingly defeated a proposal to build a $31.6 million addition to Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus and close Libby Tozier and Sabattus Elementary schools. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

WALES — Voters in Regional School District 4 sent a powerful message to the school board and its superintendent last week — they will not back a $31.6 million addition to Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus.

The Aug. 9 vote was 2,209 to 219.

The question becomes, what will residents of Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales support and what options are feasible to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff.

The RSU 4 board of directors plans to hold an organizational meeting Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the central office conference room at 971 Gardiner Road in Wales. But with the start of school one week later, it’s doubtful they will have the time to begin discussions on where to go from here, regarding the district’s plan to close Sabattus and Libby Tozier primary schools and build an addition to Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, based on comments from board members.

Chairperson Robert English said the board will certify the results of the Aug. 9 referendum at the meeting, but indicated they will have a busy agenda that night. He also said the board had not formally discussed other options, because members made the informed decision to move forward with the addition.

Superintendent Katy Grondin assumed her new role July 1 and essentially inherited the situation. In an interview after the referendum she said she was not surprised by the result. “No, I could sense that people were ready to support a project but not that high a price. We’ve got to reach a balance with what we need and what’s affordable.”


Grondin has set a diplomatic tone for discussions moving forward. “We have to give the board time to understand the feedback,” she reasoned. “What is the level of investment we need and the community needs to make? It’s all on the table. Why not listen and put it all back on the table again?”

Tom Wood is a Litchfield resident and chairman of the town Budget Committee. He is also a community activist and was among a group of 15 to 20 volunteers who, independent of the town, went door-to-door in what he called an informational campaign to educate residents about the referendum. Asked if he was surprised about the vote’s outcome, he said he was. “I thought it would be a lot closer.”

Wood said he’s glad the referendum did not pass but added that a lot of work lies ahead. “A lot more communication needs to happen between the board and the citizenry.”

The town has formed the Libby Tozier transition ad hoc committee, which Wood is heading up. He said they will try to establish the state of the building, including what it will take to extend its life as a school, a warehouse or other possible uses. Wood said the committee is an independent body that must figure out what needs to be examined and where to find the answers. To do that, they’ll need access to the school, which Grondin has indicated to them they will get, in a preliminary meeting with her.

“The committee’s first job is to find out what’s known,” Wood said. “Our job is to gather, analyze and recommend to the Select Board. There are a number of people intensely interested in what happens next,” he added.

The RSU 4 board is also planning to form an ad hoc committee. The panel will likely include stakeholders from a wide segment of the community to rethink what needs to be done to meet state guidelines, the desires of the community, and ultimately what’s best for the students, faculty and staff of the system’s schools.

School starts Aug. 31 for kindergarten through grade nine, Sept. 1 for grades 10-12, and Sept. 6 for prekindergarten.

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