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Orange considers closing Butterfield School

Recorder file photo
Butterfield, originally built in 1880, is about 40 percent full, enrolling about 200 students compared to space for 525. It received its most recent renovation in 1926.

Recorder file photo Butterfield, originally built in 1880, is about 40 percent full, enrolling about 200 students compared to space for 525. It received its most recent renovation in 1926. Purchase photo reprints »

ORANGE — Town officials are considering merging the town’s three elementary schools into two.

The idea is coming out of necessity selectmen see to trim the school budget. This would take the town to two school buildings for the next school year.

Essentially the idea, which Superintendent Tari N. Thomas admits she was considering for the future, but not as early as this September, could cut costs of building maintenance and upkeep by almost a third.

Meanwhile, in advance of a Tuesday meeting on the idea, some staff and teachers at the Butterfield School, the one that would close, have written a letter to the community raising several questions they urge town officials to answer before making any changes.

“We, the teachers and staff at Butterfield School, are still unsure as to the reasons Butterfield has been chosen to be the school that is closed,” they wrote.

“We are concerned that the data/scenarios have not been thoroughly thought out. There doesn’t seem to be any convincing data to support closing one school over another,” argues the letter that lists several questions to be answered. It concludes, “This is a big decision that needs to be based on facts and not emotions. We are disappointed that the decision seems to be already made when the facts are not in and the School Committee has not voted yet.”

At the request of Selectman Kathy Reinig, Thomas, School Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Conrod, and Director of Finance and Operations Daniel Haynes appeared before the Board of Selectmen last month to discuss the feasibility of consolidation.

The preliminary discussion was that the idea is possible if Butterfield School students were to move into one of the other school buildings, which are underutilized. According to some general number crunching by Haynes, close to $300,000 may be able to be saved. The rough number, Haynes says, is based on salaries, utilities and transportation savings. However, it was clear that myriad other details would need to be worked out.

Orange is currently working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority to receive funding to build a new elementary school. The new school would replace the three elementary schools for the town.

“It’s an emotional consideration; people have great attachments to their schools,” Thomas said.

A joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and the Orange School Committee will take place on June 10 at 6 p.m. at Fisher Hill School.

(Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)

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