January 9, 2013

Bingham school board votes to keep Quimby Middle School open

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BINGHAM -- Quimby Middle School will stay open, despite results of a recent survey in which a majority of residents who responded were in favor of closing it.

The board of Bingham-based School Administrative District 13 rejected a motion to close the school by a vote of 7-2 at Tuesday night's meeting.

Chairman Brian Malloy said he was opposed to closing the school because he didn't think the savings to the district would be substantial and he was concerned that if the district were to grow, there wouldn't be room for more students.

"We wouldn't have to grow a lot. Even adding a few students to the grade levels we have now might be a reason to split a grade level into two classrooms," he said.

The board also voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to accept students from Athens and Brighton Plantation, towns that belong to Madison-based School Administrative District 59, but are looking into withdrawing from that district and sending their students elsewhere.

The board of the district, which also includes Moscow, has been discussing closing the school since 2009 in order to save money and address declining enrollment. Tuesday was the fourth time a proposal to close the school has been voted on. It was passed once, in May 2009, but was later overturned.

At the last school board meeting, in December, Malloy said he hoped to put the issue at rest once and for all.

"We need to put this issue behind us so we can develop next year's budget," he said.

In October a survey was sent to residents of the school district asking about restructuring options. Respondents were asked to choose among four options: combine Quimby and Moscow Elementary School in the high school building, close the Moscow school, close Quimby or keep all schools open.

The final results of the survey, which were recorded at the December meeting, showed that 91 out of the 208 surveys returned favored closing Quimby Middle School.

Selectmen from Bingham and Moscow spoke at the meeting about the economies of the two towns and how they might be affected by a decision to close one of the schools.

Bingham First Selectman Steve Steward encouraged board members to keep Quimby Middle School open.

Steward said he believed the economy of the town would grow to support a larger population and that closing the school would not save enough money to cover the maintenance fees on an empty building.

"I don't think we should close any of the schools right now because our economic future looks much better than our economic past," he said. "If the town grows at all and you've closed your school, you're screwed."

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368

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