As a small town’s school-age population declines, townspeople face the sad decision to close their school. This happened last year in Weld, where no way to keep their school open seemed possible, and the town reluctantly voted to close.

This meant not only the loss of the school, but the center of parent activity and interaction and a landmark where generations of experiences and memories were held. And then the question arose, what to do with the actual building?

Weld Selectmen put an article on the regular town meeting warrant last March asking the town’s permission to sell the school building. They were turned down, not because the town was totally opposed to the selling, but because they lacked information about process and possibilities of a building important to them. So a committee of volunteers was suggested to study the matter; they were soon sworn in, and began to meet in March of this year.

This heterogeneous group of 16 townsfolk met every two weeks, for a total so far of eight meetings, inspecting the building, finding out its value on the market, its assets and possible defects. Nancy Stowell, one of the selectpersons, sat in on the earlier meetings and stated the board’s position clearly: it was their desire to sell the school, so the town would not have to budget funds to maintain it and because the selectmen wanted the property back on the tax rolls.

The building committee came up with many wide-ranging ideas for the school’s use, from a community center to a grocery store and cafe, among many others. A suggestion box at the town store, the transfer station and the open house that was held on May 30 yielded even more ideas.

A few goals were held in common: If the building was to be sold, it should have a minimum bid of $75,000 or wait for a better real estate market. The process of selling should be open and fair. The money from the sale should go into a legacy fund, not for general expenses, and used for some major benefit to the townspeople, such as purchasing lakefront for a town beach, which is currently lacking. If possible, the new owners should have a business that would employ area people and provide services useful to them.

If the building was to be retained, we would want to use it as a place that brought people together. There are four very large rooms so there could be multiple activities: perhaps a nonprofit café, an after-school center for kids, a pre-school or homeschooling, clothing swap, flea market, music jams, arts and crafts sales, Wi-Fi availability, warming place/Meals on Wheels, among others.

On June 25 at 7 p.m, the special town meeting to decide the building’s fate will be held. At that time, the selectmen, taking some input from the committee, state that the warrant will read “To see if the Town will authorize the selectmen to sell the Weld Elementary School buildings, land, and improvements at a minimum of $75,000 by sealed bid, realtor, or auction.”

The town has the option to vote yes, to amend it adding provisions, to table it until the regular town meeting next March, or to say no. We hope every Weld voter will turn out to make this important decision.

Joan Braun is chairman of the Weld School Committee.


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