BUCKFIELD — A public hearing on the town’s possible withdrawal from RSU 10 has been rescheduled for April 16, after a winter storm canceled an earlier one.

Members of the Withdrawal Committee voted Wednesday to hold the hearing at 6 p.m., before its regularly scheduled meeting, according to member Judy Berg. 

The purpose of the hearing is to give residents a chance to express what future they would like to see for the town’s school system.

The Maine Department of Education has approved the committee’s request to extend its deadline to June 30 to reach an agreement with the RSU 10 Board of Directors, Berg said. 

Last June, voters approved a measure to begin the process of withdrawing from the sprawling 12-town school district, authorizing the creation of the four-member withdrawal committee. 

In February, selectmen accepted a citizens’ petition to put a referendum on the June ballot on whether to rescind last June’s vote to withdraw.

A public hearing on the referendum is planned for May 13.

Berg was one of a group of activists who got the measure on last June’s ballot, citing concern that costs had gone up without improvements in the quality of education since the town joined RSU 10 in 2009, along with former SAD 39 towns Hartford and Sumner.

RSU 10 also includes Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield, Peru, Canton, Byron, Carthage, Hanover and Roxbury.

The committee is made up of Selectman Martha Catevenis, RSU 10 board member Jerry Wiley, Berg, a representative of the group that initiated the citizens petition and Glen Holmes. The composition of the committee is defined by Maine law. 

This is the third extension the state has granted to the committee since it was formed in September.

Maine law requires the committee and school board to reach an agreement that can be approved by the state’s education commissioner within 90 days. Considering the complexity of the process, that time line is almost unachievable, and the commissioner’s office commonly grants extensions to towns seeking withdrawal. 

Berg said the committee would continue to gather and review financial data to determine Buckfield’s cost of education in comparison to other towns in RSU 10. 

So far, the committee’s substantive work has been limited to proposing a number of options for withdrawal, including converting Buckfield Junior-Senior High School into a K-12 school or paying tuition for students to attend a neighboring school district.

Committee members have also spent considerable time discussing whether withdrawal is still a suitable option for the town. 

When withdrawal was approved last June, there was a widespread belief that neighboring Sumner and Hartford would also join the withdrawal push, possibly opening the door to reform the pre-consolidation SAD 39. 

Those hopes were dashed in November, when Sumner voters rejected a withdrawal measure for their town. To date, no formal withdrawal movement has appeared in Hartford, and enthusiasm for pulling Buckfield out of RSU 10 appears to have waned.

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