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No change for Trask family

MILLERS FALLS — It has been three years since a high-pressure backup in the Erving sewer system forced the Trask family out of their home, out of town and ultimately out of Erving Elementary School.

The accident, caused by town sewer workers trying to clear a blocked sewer line under the street outside the house, flooded the 2 Warner St. home with 4 inches of wastewater on the morning of Jan. 18, 2010.

Last school year, Sherri and Timothy Trask began the fight to keep their two young children in Erving Elementary after they were told that, as out-of-town residents, they were no longer eligible to attend the school.

This fall, MicKayla, 6, and Tristan, 8, did not join their respective classes in kindergarten and third grade.

“It has not been resolved in any way. I am currently home-schooling and still just trying to make my way back into that school system,” Sherri Trask said recently.

In March, the Trasks petitioned the School Committee to allow the children to stay, with the help of state Rep. Denise Andrews, saying the loss of their school would be too much change after the loss of their home and their grandmother.

Trask said her mother had recently undergone surgery, became septic and died from an infection she developed after the accident, in which she was splattered with waste shot from a toilet.

While she is home-schooling the children for the present, Trask said she intends to take up the fight again this year.

Trask said she intends to reach out again to state legislators for their help after the issue apparently fell off the table during the election season, and the family is looking for a place to rent in Erving to qualify again as residents.

The flood of sewage left the family briefly homeless, living in a hotel before they were able to move into a second home they own and had rented out, subsequently losing the Erving home after they were unable to pay two mortgages on a reduced income.

The Trasks were initially able to keep their children in Erving Elementary, first under a state law governing education for children considered homeless and later because the housing and legal situation was unclear and they went under the radar, Superintendent Joan Wickman said earlier, until she was informed the town and the family had reached a settlement.

A state law caps the damages that can be recovered from a municipality at $100,000, and after some cleaning expenses and the cost of an extended hotel stay were deducted, Trask said the town insurance company issued a check for $48,000 and change.

At an Erving School Committee meeting in March, school lawyer Fernand Dupere said the only means of allowing the children to attend Erving Elementary in the fall would be for the committee to vote to open the school to School Choice, accept any applicants then select students through a lottery with no preference given to the Trasks.

Jonathan “J.C.” Considine, spokesman for the state department of elementary and secondary education, told The Recorder at the time a school committee could simply allow children to attend free of charge, but had no obligation to do so.

This is not a common choice, according to Considine, and the other options would be the School Choice route or a tuition agreement between the towns involved.

School Committee chairman Jarod J. Boissonneault refused to comment, as did member Renee Tela. Others could not be reached or did not return calls for comment.

Wickman, superintendent of Union 28, the shared management system of which Erving Elementary is a part, responded via email to calls for comment.

“Since Erving Elementary School is not a school of choice, the only way that students can attend is if they live in town or if a parent works for the school for at least 50% of the time,” Wickman wrote.

Wickman wrote she has not heard from the Trasks in approximately a year.

Andrews said earlier this month she intends to re-file a bill that would raise the cap, which she said did not make it to a vote last year.

Trask pushed for the bill, the effect of which would not be retroactive.

“She was very clear with me when she filed it, she said, ‘Hey, I know this won’t help me, but I want to help the future families that could be faced with this,’ which I think is very compassionate and responsible,” Andrews said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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