School to Close Doors in 2015

October 24, 2014
Staff photo by S. Aaron Shamshoyan  School board members voted unanimously to close the doors of Haigh Elementary School in the fall of 2015.  The town will undergo a redistricting in an effort to create more even classroom sizes across the district.

Staff photo by S. Aaron Shamshoyan School board members voted unanimously to close the doors of Haigh Elementary School in the fall of 2015. The town will undergo a redistricting in an effort to create more even classroom sizes across the district.

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

One of six elementary schools in town will close its doors to students next year after a vote by school board members Tuesday.

Haigh Elementary School has been the topic of discussions for a few years as board members and community members battled the idea of closing the school as a result of declining enrollments in the district.

“Our committee considered every possible scenario,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty told board members before making the recommendation.

The discussion on the building’s fate began a few years ago when board members were working to renovate the district’s aging elementary schools.  The projects were done in two phases, providing extensive renovations to five of the six buildings, with Haigh left off.

While advocating for the phase two renovations, which included work to Soule and Fisk schools, the board held forums with Haigh parents saying enrollments were declining but no immediate discussions were being had to close the facility.

The completion of renovations has created more room and a redistricting is being required to even out class sizes regardless of operations in Haigh.

Board member Bernie Campbell said elementary enrollments have declined over the past few years.

“It now really is a matter of equivalency,” he said, adding enrollment has declined by over 250 students, which is greater than the population of Haigh.

With the school closed, students currently attending Haigh will be moved to Lancaster and Barron, but a town-wide redistricting will mean changes at every school.

Delahanty said some schools see classes with only 13 to 15 students and some classes are as high as 26.

Board members weighed in on the proposal, saying they wished to leave the facility open but saw the financial needs to close the school.

“The superintendent has brought forward the recommendation we all kind of expected,” Campbell said.

“The classroom sizes at Haigh school were considerably smaller that other schools,” Member Michael Carney said.  “We did promise to try to mitigate the expenses where we could,” he said about the high school renovation.

Member Pamela Berry said she didn’t support closing the school for financial reasons but said it was the right thing to do.

“I am not in support of closing the Haigh School to mitigate the cost of the high school,” she said, adding there will be an increased cost to reopen the facility when enrollment increases.

Chairwoman Patricia Corbett said closing the school was a tough decision for the board.

“We are making this decision with very heavy hearts,” she said.  “I do want people to truly believe that this board does care for children.”

School Board members voted unanimously to close the school in the fall of 2015.