BETHEL – Voters in more than a dozen towns and plantations in Oxford and Franklin counties will decide on Jan. 27 whether to merge their two school systems.

Representatives from SAD 44, based in Bethel, and School Union 37, based in Rangeley, met over the past few months to work out a consolidation plan, which was then approved by the state Department of Education.

Now, voters must agree.

If the two school systems get together, it will have about 1,000 students. The two central offices are about 75 miles apart.

Merging systems is mandated by state law. If SAD 44 does not merge, it would be subject to a penalty of nearly $186,000. If Rangeley doesn’t find a partner, that penalty would be about $98,000, and the unaffiliated towns of Gilead and Upton would have penalties assessed of $7,500 and $8,000, respectively.

Both systems searched for partners for nearly two years before hooking up with each other. In a matter of weeks in late fall, the two worked out a plan.

The past two weeks have brought people from each town or plantation to public informational sessions to learn more about the plan from SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy and School Union 37 Superintendent Phil Richardson.

Murphy said little savings are likely at first but will increase during years four and five.

The new school system’s board would decide where educational improvements would take place in both districts. If voters approve the plan next week, a new 20-member board, which includes at least one board member from each civil division, would be elected in March or April. That board would also write policies that would apply to both districts.

Each district will soon begin the development of a 2009-2010 operating budget, then the new board will finish it up, he said.

The new district would begin operating July 1.

Voting times and places are:

School Union 37:

Dallas Plantation – 2-6 p.m., Town Office

Lincoln Plantation – 4-8 p.m., Town Office

Magalloway Plantation – 4-8 p.m., Town Office

Rangeley Plantation – 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Town Office

Sandy River Plantation – 2-6 p.m., Town Office

Rangeley – 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Town Office

SAD 44:

Andover – 4-8 p.m., Town Hall

Bethel – 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Crescent Park Elementary School

Greenwood – 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Town Office

Newry – 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Town Office

Woodstock – 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Town Office

Unaffiliated towns:

Gilead – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Town Office

Upton – 4-8 p.m., Town Office



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