SAD 44 board votes to close Andover Elementary School

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BETHEL —  The SAD 44 board voted 10-6 Monday night not to rescind their earlier vote to close the Andover Elementary School in June.

The vote effectively closes the school, which has 31 students in grades kindergarten to five, unless Andover voters decide to come up with $214,600 to keep it open. A hearing on the issue is set for May 25, and a vote for June 16, both at the Andover Town Hall.

An impassioned and committed group of Andover residents formed Save/Recreate the Andover School in recent months. In the past week, the group, citing how important the school is to the community, has galvanized a large amount of support in this rural close-knit community of 900.

The save-the-school movement recently garnered 222 signatures to petition the board to reconsider its April vote of 13-3 to close the school.

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Last Thursday, supporters of the school held a standing-room-only informational meeting at the Andover school where Superintendent David Murphy fielded questions on the possible closure.

Monday’s school board meeting at Telstar Regional High School library had about 90 supporters of the save-the-school movement who met at the Andover school and drove to Bethel in a 27-car caravan to show their support.

The school board opened the meeting with the issue of the petition to revisit their April closure vote.

The vast majority favoring keeping the school open mentioned the added travel time to bus Andover students to Bethel to attend classes, subjecting elementary school students, particularly kindergartners, to riding with high school students, the important role the school plays in the vibrant, viable community of Andover and the importance of a small-school education experience.

Board members voiced opinions on both sides of the issue. Proponents of closing the school questioned that educational quality would suffer and that the bus trip would not a hardship.

Undaunted by the 10-6 defeat, the Andover school supporters vowed to fight on, hoping to get enough votes and money to keep it open for another year.

                        dfayen@sunjournal.com

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