Albion Elementary School is slated to be closed under a building consolidation plan being pursued by Maine School Administrative District 49. That has prompted Albion residents to consider withdrawing the town from the school district. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

ALBION — More than two months after residents overwhelmingly voted to explore leaving the area school district, a town committee is preparing to start negotiations with the district — a process one member compared to a divorce.

“Like any divorce, there’ll be parts that’ll be super messy, and there’ll be parts that’ll be great,” said Kara Kugelmeyer, chairperson of the town’s withdrawal committee.

The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Besse Building at 22 Main St. The first half of the meeting will be open to the public, Kugelmeyer said, and the second half will be in executive session, to consult with a lawyer. The meeting plans to focus on where the town stands now in the process and what next steps the committee will take.

Residents voted to explore withdrawing from Maine School Administrative District 49 in a special election in June, with a vote of 184-23, an 8-to-1 margin of support. The district is comprised of Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield. The vote gave approval for the town to form the withdrawal committee and authorized the committee to spend up to $45,000.

The members of the committee include Kugelmeyer, as the representative for the group filing the petition to withdraw; Michael Gardner, chairperson of the Select Board, representing municipal officers; Billie Jo Brown-Woods, a school board member representing Albion; and Scott Corey, serving as a member of the public.

A withdrawal agreement the committee is looking to draft will outline what Albion will do for public education after leaving the district. At this point a proposal calls for the town to operate Albion Elementary School for young children — the school currently serves kindergarten through sixth grade — and then some form of school choice for older children.


Kugelmeyer said the committee plans to send out information to residents and get feedback on what nearby districts they would like the town to work with to serve older students.

“We’re really trying to raise the level of awareness, and also try to figure out how to make it consumable for people, because it’s a super-complicated process,” Kugelmeyer said.

The committee has also hired an educational consultant who is helping it assess the various options for education and predict how much each option will cost residents.

A point of contention in the negotiations is likely to be the cost of the district’s new elementary school planned for Benton — projected to be more than $40 million — and how much of that cost Albion should pay, if it pays for any of it at all. District residents are scheduled to vote on the project in November.

“That’ll be stuff that’ll be worked out during the agreement, and we’re not there yet,” Kugelmeyer said. “So we haven’t really had a chance to talk through it as a group.”

Organizers in Albion have said previously that because the town voted to begin withdrawal before the referendum vote for the new school, the town should not be required to pay for any part of the new building.


However, at a school board meeting in June, lawyer and consultant Bill Stockmeyer, who was giving a presentation on the financing for the new school project, said that in his experience a withdrawing town still has to contribute toward a construction project.

The new school is part of what prompted the withdrawal effort. The new building will consolidate elementary school students in the district so that officials can close Albion Elementary School, Clinton Elementary School and Fairfield Primary School.

Residents have expressed concerns about longer bus rides to the new school and how the cost of the building will impact tax bills for Albion residents.

Kugelmeyer said that once the withdrawal committee completes a draft agreement it will be sent to the school district for its review. The two sides will then negotiate various issues before reaching a tentative agreement that will be sent to the state Department of Education for consideration, she said.

But the final determination on any effort to leave the district will be made by Albion residents in a town vote, where it will need to be approved by a two-thirds margin.

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