FAIRFIELD — Representatives for the town of Albion and for School Administrative District 49 met Monday to discuss whether the district will continue to take older students if Albion decides to leave the district and operate its own elementary school.

The conversation focused primarily on whether the district will guarantee that all Albion students will be enrolled at Lawrence High School and Lawrence Junior High School.

Much of the negotiations have been held in private but Monday’s meeting was open to the public and offered a glimpse into the key issues both sides face — mainly the state Department of Education requirement that the town have an agreement with a nearby district to guarantee that all Albion students can attend school there.

Albion residents voted in June to begin exploring the option of leaving SAD 49, which currently serves Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield. The topic of withdrawal came up as the school district’s board of directors voted to close Albion Elementary School, along with Fairfield Primary School and Clinton Elementary School, and move elementary students to the current Benton Elementary School and a new building to be built in Benton.

After residents expressed frustration about losing the Albion school and having to bus students of all ages out of town, withdrawal was proposed. Members of the withdrawal committee have presented a plan for the town to instead operate Albion Elementary School through sixth grade, and allow families in town to choose to attend any nearby district for older students.

Elizabeth Ridgeway, a representative on the school board from Benton, said the district’s position is that it doesn’t want Albion to withdraw, and wants all students to stay in the district.


“I just think that it would be a huge loss to us to lose Albion kids,” Ridgeway said. “And so the narrative that we don’t want Albion kids I just don’t agree with. We want them, we want all of them because we think that it improves our community.”

But if the district were to guarantee acceptance, the district would have to factor in a new tuition contract for Albion students and fundamentally change how the district and board operates, Ridgeway said.

“It’s not that we don’t want Albion students or kids, it’s that we want all of you, we want the district to stay whole,” said Danielle Boutin, a representative from Fairfield.

Scott Corey, with the Albion withdrawal committee, said if the district values Albion children then he doesn’t understand why it would not guarantee acceptance. He said the current proposal from the district would not allow Albion students attending Lawrence High and Junior High to remain there.

“This makes no sense to me if we’re here for the kids,” Corey said. “I understand what you’re saying, but in the agreement when you refuse even to grandfather the kids already here if we left, that flies in the face of everything you just said.”

The lawyer for Albion, Dan Stockford, said he has worked on numerous school withdrawal agreements, and in the overwhelming majority the district agrees to be the school of acceptance. The position of SAD 49 to not be the school of acceptance is “a bit of a slap in the face,” Stockford said.

Kara Kugelmeyer, the chairwoman of the Albion committee, said the town has approached two other districts so far about operating as the guaranteed district, and may reach out to others, but the committee wants SAD 49 to be the guaranteed district and believes it would be the best fit.

The Albion committee has submitted the most recent proposal so the next step will be for the district to review it and respond in writing, continuing negotiations.

Once an agreement is reached between the district and Albion, it will be presented to Albion residents who will then hold a vote to decide if the town will actually withdraw.

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