Heath seeks to join Hawlemont school district

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

HEATH — Three months after Heath children started school at Hawlemont, town officials are seeking a state grant to help smooth the process of adding Heath to the Hawlemont Regional School District as a member town within the next few years.

With letters of support from the selectboards of Hawlemont member towns Charlemont and Hawley, and assistance from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Heath applied this week for an state Efficiency and Regionalization Grant for $50,000 to pay for a consultant and legal costs for town meeting warrant articles and amendments to the regional agreements.

“It is my hope that the grant will be able to assist not only in development of action steps and in building consensus among our communities,” said Heath Selectboard Chairwoman Sheila Litchfield. “The time line needs to be developed. … We feel it is important to take the time to do consensus building, and make sure all three towns are comfortable with it.”

When asked if Heath would like to join Hawlemont before the next school year, Litchfield said it may not be possible, since towns want to see warrant articles by March for their annual town meetings. But she hoped it may be possible to discuss the issue during the annual town meetings this spring.

“As long as we’re making progress on full partnership with Hawley and Charlemont, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen next fall,” she said.

Litchfield said Heath families and students have been made to feel welcomed and appreciated this year at Hawlemont. She said the tuition and influx of students has benefited Hawlemont’s budget and enabled the school to have a separate classroom for each grade level. “Having one classroom per grade is huge,” she said. “And the classrooms are neither under- nor over-crowded.”

“Our parents want to participate in the whole life of the Hawlemont School, so having a voice on the School Committee is another issue,” said Litchfield. “So far, we’re happy with the outcome. We truly feel welcomed and happy at Hawlemont, so it’s working.”

Although Heath closed its sparsely populated elementary school building at the end of school this spring, the town remains a full K-12 member of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, with a three-year tuition agreement with Hawlemont.

This year, Heath has 36 children enrolled in Hawlemont and is paying $10,000 per pupil.

If Heath joins the Hawlemont Regional School District, the Mohawk agreement would have to be amended, so that Heath would become a Grade 7-12 member, which is the current status for Hawley and Charlemont.