Andover residents plead for their school

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BETHEL — Discussion at Monday night’s SAD 44 board meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the Andover Elementary School open for at least one more year.

“The Andover Elementary School is so much more to the community than just a school,” Tina Farrington said. “It is part of our extended community family … taking away our school would be like taking the rug out from under us.”

The school board voted 10-6 Monday night not to rescind its April vote to close the school in June. A group of citizens successfully petitioned the board to hold another vote on the issue.

The school district has estimated closing the school would save approximately $214,600.

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The 25 students in grades kindergarten to five who are expected to attend there next year would be bused about 23 miles to Crescent Park School in Bethel, a 45- to 60-minute ride.

 “No child would benefit in our town or the district by closing the Andover Elementary School,” said Heather O’Leary, co-organizer of the movement to keep it open. “Andover has come together as one behind the school in recent weeks,” she said.

“I object to the hurried nature of this decision,” Peter Farrington said. “This vote does not give us enough time to look into other options such as an interlocal agreement whereby communities get together to defray the cost to keep this school open for a year.”

“Please give this school another year,” state Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, pleaded. “This is a creative and passionate group that deserves a year to explore fully all options,” he said.

Peterson represents House District 92, which includes Andover.

Supporters of closing the school also spoke.

“Small schools do wonderful things,” school board member Deb Webster of Newry said, “but I think we should look at both sides. It would be fiscally irresponsible to fund this school. The town will have the opportunity to keep the school open.”

Andover residents have scheduled a public hearing on the issue at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at the Town Hall. That will be followed by a meeting June 16, also at the Town Hall, on whether to raise money to keep it open.

School board Chairman Sidney Pew of Andover said the $214,600 would stay in the budget to offset any unforeseen costs such as heating and transportation. He said keeping the school open would not result in the loss of any teachers.

The school board finished discussion and with a 10-6 vote decided to close the school.

In other board news, Pew announced that Channel 13 visited  the Andover school as part of its School Kids Correspondents series.

“The kids were terrific.,” he said. It was  “one of the best profiles of any school I’ve seen.”

Pew also lauded Telstar school’s recent theatrical performance of “Beauty and the Beast” presented to the community last week at Telstar Regional High School in Bethel.

School Principal Dan Hart  gave a glowing report on the success of the Telstar high and middle schools third annual Contractors’ Day. Hart said many local contractors, faculty and staff members, students and community members tackled nine projects inside and outside the middle and high school.

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