CABOT — A petition is being circulated in Cabot by residents who want to eliminate the high school and let parents choose where to send their children.
If it is submitted to the school board with the necessary 60 signatures, the petition would give voters the opportunity to say whether they want to drop grades 9 through 12 from Cabot School, which serves all grades starting with prekindergarten.
School Board Chairman Chris Tormey said Tuesday he had seen a draft of the petition but had yet to see any copy with signatures. One parent who is involved said the signatures are in hand and that the petition will be presented at the school board’s next meeting.
Tormey said the high school grades are projected to have 65 students next year, with just over 200 in the entire school.
“Some families feel that a high school that small cannot offer their child some of the opportunities that they might have in a larger school,” Tormey said. “Small isn’t for everybody.”
Another issue parents and residents have had with the school, Tormey said, is the cost. He said some residents have the perception that getting rid of the high school would save money.
“It turns out that it would actually be somewhat more expensive to the town to tuition their kids than if we were to retain them in Cabot,” he said, adding that, among other reasons, the town would no longer get the revenue from the eight students from other towns who attend high school in Cabot.
Because the school board knows the petition is in the works, Tormey said, the board is working on two separate budgets, one with high school grades and one where the town would pay to send the students elsewhere.
Tormey, who has had three children go through the Cabot school system, said that while he understands some of the concerns of the parents, he is not in favor of eliminating the high school.
Superintendent Nancy Thomas agreed with Tormey that it would cost the town more to ship students to other schools.
“How much more expensive is determined, in part, by what is left in the school,” Thomas said Tuesday.
On top of paying tuition for the students to attend other schools, which can range from around $8,000 to $14,000 per year per student, the school would still have nine grades to teach, the buses would still run and the school would still need staff such as a guidance counselor and a nurse, Thomas said.
“Those things don’t change. You don’t save that much,” she said.
If the high school grades stay, the school is projected to spend around $14,500 per high school student next year, according to Rob Billings, the business manager for Washington Northeast Supervisory Union.
Thomas said that eliminating the upper grades also would not allow the school to consolidate operations in a meaningful way.
The school has four satellite buildings where elementary classes and other activities are held. Thomas said that if the high school grades go away, the school might close one of the buildings but could not move all the students into the main building because it is not big enough.
She said the school would still have to pay for heat and water for what would be vacant buildings, so the savings would be minimal.
Brigitte Codling is one of the Cabot residents behind the petition. The mother of six has pulled her five school-age children out of the Cabot system and is home-schooling them.
She said the petition has more than 100 signatures and she plans to present it to the school board at its next meeting Dec. 17.
Codling said that ideally she would not want the high school closed but that she and other parents are not happy with how the school is being run. She cites the curriculum change the school made two years ago where the focus became independent project-based learning.
“Though it’s fun, and a lot of the students say that they enjoy it, a lot of the parents believe that it is not teaching the children and not preparing them adequately for the future,” Codling said.
She said other residents like her, who do not have children in the school system, also want the high school shut down because the taxes are too high.
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