Sudbury voters elect to keep school open

SUDBURY — The people of Sudbury have spoken, and the town elementary school will continue to teach all 20 students it serves.
Residents voted 110-39 to keep the k-6 Sudbury Country School open on Monday night following a two-hour information meeting held by the Sudbury school board. The vote was scheduled after a petition was presented to the board on Oct. 11 asking voters to consider shuttering the school due to falling enrollment and tuitioning students to other area schools.
“I’m really pleased with the support the town showed for the school,” said Sudbury school board Chair John Lones, following the vote. “I appreciated everybody’s questions and comments.”
Lones said most of the initial questions at the information meeting were regarding financial technicalities, followed by many residents stating their support for the school and the success of its students.
Sudbury has been presented with the opportunity to merge with other small area schools in recent years in order to avoid closing because of shrinking enrollment. In 2006, the town voted to merge with the Whiting Elementary School, but voters in Whiting voted against the move. Then in 2008, Sudbury residents voted against merging with Whiting and Leicester schools.
“Hopefully, this vote will lay the issue to rest for a while,” Lones said. “This was really the last option. The people have decided they want the school.”
The board chair was asked if he was surprised that the initiative failed by such a wide margin.
“No, I thought the town support for the school was pretty solid,” he said. “I’m glad it was as decisive as it was.”
Enrollment at the school fell sharply over the summer from 31 students to 20 after seven students graduated and a family with four children moved out of town.
Lones said the board has done a five-year projection of enrollment and budgetary costs over the next five years that shows the school should hold its own. Enrollment is expected to reach 25 students next year, and 29 students in 2012 and 2013, and 27 students in 2014 and 2015.
“It’s cheaper to keep the school open with those numbers than it is to tuition students,” Lones said.
Lones said the total tax savings of tuitioning over keeping the school on a $200,000 house over that five-year period is $660 based on those enrollment projections and budgetary numbers.
“That’s $132 a year,” Lones said. “The consensus was, ‘Why would we close the school to save $132?’”

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