LITCHFIELD — Litchfield is considering withdrawing from Regional School Unit 4.

A newly formed committee is scheduled to meet Thursday night for the first time to explore the possibility of the town leaving the Wales-based school district.

Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said “no one has asked to withdraw” and there is “no push to do so,” but community members want to discuss the possibility of gaining more local control of the schools following two recent controversial actions tied to the district.

Residents were particularly concerned about a proposal by RSU 4 to close the aging Libby-Tozier Primary School in Litchfield and finance a $31.6 million project to expand Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus and relocate most of the primary school students there. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposal in August.

The school district also notified Litchfield recently that it had underbilled for its share of the school district’s budget by $760,000.

“Given this current situation and the other situation, the referendum, I think its worth looking at getting back into our smaller community, local community and have local control,” said resident Percy Gowell at a Sept. 12 Select Board meeting. “I think it would be a huge thing to look at the liability of getting out of the RSU.”


About 91% of voters in the three RSU 4 towns — Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales — have said they are opposed the Oak Hill Middle School plan, which would have involved shutting down Sabattus Primary School and Libby-Tozier Primary School. Both schools need millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades to meet state standards for school buildings.

Litchfield residents were the most strongly opposed to the plan, with 96.3% voting against the expansion and 3.7% in favor.

Most residents said the cost would have been too much for the town, and those at the Sept. 12 Select Board meeting said they were upset about the $760,000 in extra funds the district had requested, with some residents at the meeting calling for the money to be paid by the state. Voters will be asked on the November ballot whether they want to fund the $760,000 school budget increase.

Gowell, who was vocal about the matters, agreed to chair the town’s RSU 4 withdrawal exploratory committee, and nominated Chadd Hill, Michael Sherman and Tom Wood to be a part of the committee.

The Select Board approved the committee at its Sept. 12 meeting. Gowell suggested using the town’s Facebook page to get an understanding of how residents feels on the issue, and communicate with districts that have withdrawn, or tried to withdraw, from a school district.

Withdrawing from a school district is a lengthy process that the nearby town of Richmond is going through in Regional School Unit 2. Before the Litchfield exploratory committee can make any decision regarding withdrawing from the district, residents must vote on whether they would like to go through with the decision. For now, the district is only considering its options.


“We don’t have a good foothold or understanding on what the process is,” Weissenfels said to the Kennebec Journal. “They are looking for more members that have a tie in to the school district to broaden the perspective of the committee. If they can get more people involved, the better.”

The process consists of 32 steps outlined by the state Department of Education, and involves dividing town and district assets. In some cases, such as Richmond’s, it can cost the district more to withdraw than stay in a school district, but some say having local control and paying more are better options.

Litchfield has two of RSU 4’s schools located in the town — primary school Libby Tozier School and elementary school, Carrie Ricker School.

Oak Hill Middle School and Sabattus Primary School are in Sabattus, and Oak Hill High School is in Wales.

The first meeting of the Litchfield withdrawal exploratory committee is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Town Office.

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