By KATHRYN FLAGG
GRANVILLE — Granville residents voted to close their 158-year-old, one-room schoolhouse on Monday, opting 50-19 to tuition all of the town’s elementary and secondary students to schools outside of the Addison County town.
Many voters voiced sadness over the decision, but chalked up the decision to dwindling elementary school student numbers and neighboring Hancock’s Town Meeting Day decision to dissolve the joint school contract between the two towns.
Hancock residents voted on March 3 to pull out of the contract, which the two towns established in 2004 as a way to save their small schools. Had Granville opted to keep its school open without the Hancock partnership, the school next year would have served 13 elementary school students — ranging from kindergarten to fourth grade — in one classroom manned by one and a half educators.
Parents of Granville elementary school children said on Monday that they loved the joint village school, but that they worried returning to a one-room schoolhouse would mean shortchanging the town’s students.
Heather Needham was one of those parents. Her children will head into the seventh grade and second grade next year. Needham’s older daughter attended the Granville school prior to the joint village school contract with Hancock.
Although the one-room schoolhouse worked well then, Needham said she wasn’t sure that it was the best option for students now.
“I’m just a little concerned about the (student) numbers,” she said.
Asha Rowles and Patty Bordonaro agreed.
“The numbers are dwindling and the class sizes are too small for one room,” Rowles said, “and I want to send my kids somewhere else.”
“We did the one-room thing, and that was fine. It worked,” Bordonaro said. “But after the village school, which I personally thought was wonderful, going back to that one room and that tiny class would be two giant steps backward. I just don’t think that’s fair to our kids.”
The vote means that next year, Granville’s elementary school students will join older children in grades seven through 12 who were already tuitioned out to outside schools. Just where those students will attend school will be up to parents, school board member Tammi Beattie said.
Also on Monday, Granville voters approved a 2009-2010 school year spending plan of $789,380.
The town’s one-room school, according to Granville school board member Victoria Crowne, was the fourth-oldest continuously operating school in the country.
“It’s just very sad,” Crowne said. “It’s the end of an era.”
Just before Monday’s meeting adjourned, Granville resident Kate Stauss expressed her gratitude for the years of service that the school’s educators have given to the community.
Her younger son is graduating from high school this year. She noted that in one of his college interviews he told the admissions counselor with pride that he’d attended a one-room schoolhouse as a child.
Addressing the teachers present, Stauss said she hoped educators didn’t think that the vote was a reflection of the town’s feelings toward the teachers’ work.
“My children had a wonderful experience in this school,” Stauss said. “This schoolhouse has had a very important part of our lives wrapped up in it, and I think it’s going to be celebrated. A lot of us are feeling really sad, but I hope as we move forward that we’ll be able to have some sort of celebration about the long and beautiful history of this school and the part it has played in all of our lives.”
Crowne agreed that the school, during its long run, provided an excellent education for the town’s children.
“It produced wonderful educations,” Crowne said. “These teachers should be commended, because not everybody can run a one-room schoolhouse.”
The fate of the schoolhouse has not yet been decided, but school board members said Monday that the town has expressed an interest in turning the school into the Granville town clerk’s office.
Stauss said that, moving forward, the school’s closing will ultimately mean that Granville children won’t share the common experience of attending the town’s tiny school, but that she’s confident Granville will be able to move forward.
“We’ll find other ways to make community here in Granville,” Stauss said. “Granville’s a great town. We will still be a really strong town. It’s a really tight-knit community, and this has been a really hard decision for all of us. But I’m proud of us for making a decision. It took a lot of gumption.”