Do homework on consolidation

There are some interesting ideas being kicked around by the people studying the possible consolidation of the Amherst, Souhegan and Mont Vernon school dis­tricts.

One that interests us greatly is the pos­sibility of having youngsters in Amherst who live near Mont Vernon attend the lat­ter town’s Village School rather than Am­herst’s Clark School, which, for many of them, would mean a shorter school com­mute.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The ideas put out by the districts’ Streamline Committee are just that, ideas, not recommendations. Those are a bit down the road, and any decisions will come after discussions at public forums.

After The Cabinet reported last week that the first forum would be on Nov. 9, school administrators postponed it until a date that was undecided at presstime. But there will be public discussions, and voters should prepare to attend so they can be prepared to eventually vote.

Consolidation will surely be debated at great length, because enrollment in the schools is falling and because school of­ficials are looking for ways to make the districts more efficient and effective.

The student population in the three dis­tricts is predicted to drop by more than 400 students in the next five years, which means there will not be enough students to justify the current programs.

The committee rejected the option of closing either the Mont Vernon or Clark school, but if enrollment keeps dropping and districts aren’t consolidated, the fu­ture of the Mont Vernon school would be in jeopardy.

Although Frank Brown, chairman of the streamline committee, said it didn’t have a recommendation, all of the evi­dence points to consolidation.

Much administrative time and effort is spent on maintaining three school dis­tricts, a cumbersome situation that would be alleviated by having one. Just the pa­perwork involved is triple what it would be with a single district.

There will be people who don’t under­stand why things can’t go on the way have been, and that should not be a knee-jerk response issue: It’s up to officials to ex­plain what’s at stake and up to residents to keep an open mind.

The streamline committee, after all, has been looking at this for many months. Residents need to be as diligent in their consideration of these issues, and the merits of any potential solutions, as the committee has been in its studies.

And don’t forget, if a solution is pro­posed and goes onto the March warrants, voters in all three districts would have to approve, and that’s no easy task for po­tential proponents of whatever school of­ficials decide to put forward.

But there seem to be a lot of good rea­sons for consolidation, including the abil­ity to balance class sizes. Perhaps you don’t think that’s important. If that’s the case, you need to go to at least one of the forums to express that.

But go to at least one forum, listen, speak up and ponder. Eventually, the decision will be yours, so the more you know, the better the final decision.

And remember that school officials and the members of the streamline com­mittee are your friends and neighbors with the best interests of students at heart.