CALAIS — Three documents designed to preserve the town’s interest in Calais Elementary School in the wake of a looming state-ordered merger will be considered by local voters during a special school district meeting Tuesday night.
The meeting, which is set for 6 p.m. at the pre-K-6 school, will provide voters a chance to weigh in on the documents — an option, an easement deed and a “school property use agreement.”
Crafted with the help of attorney James Barlow, the documents have yet to be executed by members of the Select Board and School Board. That will likely change if they are approved by voters Tuesday night.
Unlike the elementary school budget, which was approved by voters on Town Meeting Day last month, or the more recently adopted spending plan for U-32 Middle and High School, the decision will be made on the floor of a moderated meeting — not by Australian ballot.
That will provide town and school officials an opportunity to explain the thinking behind the documents, which some have suggested are unnecessary and others have equated to a “prenuptial agreement” that would provide an added level of protection heading into a forced merger.
That merger would create a single pre-K-12 school district including currently autonomous elementary schools in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester, as well as jointly owned, but separately run, U-32. Lawmakers have, as of yet, been unable to reconcile competing proposals that could provide for a one-year delay in the July 1 implementation of the merger, and the prospects of a judicial reprieve suffered a setback when a judge dismissed key constitutional claims raised on behalf of 33 school districts.
Calais is on that list, as are three of its sister-districts — Berlin, Middlesex and Worcester — in the Washington Central Supervisory Union.
The documents that will be presented to voters for their consideration Tuesday night presume the merger occurs and the assets of the local district — like those of all of its supervisory union partners — are transferred to the merged district.
Concerned their school might one day be closed, officials have drafted an “exclusive irrevocable option” that, if executed, would give the town the right to reacquire the Calais Elementary School property for $1 in the event it is no longer used for the “on-site education of children.”
That type of transaction is already contemplated in default articles of agreement that would be imposed on the merged district.
Meanwhile, officials are asking voters to approve two other documents — an easement and an agreement — that would preserve the town’s right to use the school building in the future.
The easement deed would guarantee continued use of the school as an emergency shelter and local polling place and town meeting space as needed. It would also provide the town with the permanent right to use the school’s fields, playgrounds and gymnasium for recreational programs and activities it sponsors.
The accompanying agreement provides some more specific detail about insurance requirements, the need to provide adequate supervision, and comply with current and future laws, ordinances and regulations, including school district policies.