Pioneer to close Pearl Rhodes

  • The Pioneer Valley Regional School Committee voted to close Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School last night. STAFF PHOTO/SHELBY ASHLINE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/28/2019 11:34:11 PM

NORTHFIELD — Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School is closing at the end of June, the Pioneer Valley Regional School Committee decided last night.

Warwick Community School, which the committee has also been thinking about closing, gets another year, for now.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you,” said Warwick Selectboard Chairman Doc Pruyne, on his way out of the room after the vote.

For the most part committee members agreed that it would make the best sense financially to close both schools. But the quality of Warwick’s building and its reputation for attracting out-of-town students were seen as assets that could improve with time.

Of the 12 members of the committee, only one was not at the meeting. The votes were: eight in favor of closing Pearl Rhodes, three against; three in favor of closing Warwick Community School, eight against.

The risk of losing Warwick as a member town may have influenced the committee’s thinking. Committee member David Young, who is also Warwick’s Town Coordinator, emphasized to the committee that the Warwick Selectboard is serious about keeping its school and would likely leave the district if it were the only way to keep it. Such a loss to the district would only worsen its financial problems, Young said.

“We will be 10 percent smaller and without a very nice building and a competent staff and a great educational experience,” Young said.

Others saw it differently. Committee member Sharon Fontaine of Leyden said that, in the district’s current financial situation, keeping Warwick open for another year would be “disastrous.”

Budget Subcommittee Chairman Mike Townsley supported closing both schools and redirecting the money to instructional assistants that are cut in the proposed budget for the coming school year.

With the closure of Pearl Rhodes, Pioneer will likely be proposing a lower budget to its member towns than was previously planned. The currently proposed budget calls for a 1.65-percent increase in the towns’ payments to the district over what they paid this year. Without Pearl Rhodes, the assessment to the towns could be lower than it was this year by 0.4 percent, according to projections from district Finance Director Tanya Gaylord.

But it remains to be seen what the budget proposal will be. Town selectboards and finance committees formally asked the School Committee that any money saved through school closures be seen as savings to the town. But School Committee members did not rule out using the money to hire back some of the instructional assistants who would otherwise be cut.


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