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State funding cuts force closure of Brown School

Hillside Elementary School students will have to share space at that building next year due to the closing of Brown School. The SAU3 school board voted to close Brown School last week because of budget issues and financial hardship. K-5 grades will be taught at Hillside Elementary and six to 12 will be at the high school building. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
January 23, 2019
BERLIN — Emotions were high at a public meeting held last week when the Berlin School Board voted to close Brown School, the city's last standing elementary school, due to a financial crisis triggered by cuts to state stabilization grants for education.

Declining enrollment at the schools has not helped, and the district is about half a million dollars over budget.

Brown School is set to close at the end of this school year and grades will be consolidated -- kindergarten through fifth grades will move to Hillside Elementary and grades six through 12 will be taught at the high school.

Many parents are worried about the effects the transition will have students and on the age gap between them. The Berlin Reporter interviewed a number of parents on the matter.

"Sixth to eighth graders don't belong with high school," said Louise St. Onge Dion of Berlin. "My grandkids will unfortunately be going, and I'm not happy about it at all."

Other parents pointed out that other schools, like Gorham Middle High School, have a similar grading system there, and that there are no issues with that system.

Another parent is concerned about the empty building at Brown School and wondered what will it will used for and if tax payers were still going to pay for the building while it's closed.

A high school student, Trenity Holden, offered her input.

"I am going to be a senior at BHS next year and no one seems to care what we think," she said. "Honestly, I understand the we're not getting the funding we usually have and that Brown School isn't up to code anymore. I also don't have a problem with the middle school moving into the high school. However, my biggest issue is that they're trying to do it all by next year. To do something as drastic as move an entire school into a different, preoccupied building takes time. We have to figure out the bell schedules, lunches, classrooms, teachers, and how to keep everyone separated. As a senior I can adapt to whatever change is thrown at me with the school, but, imagine the sophomore's who've only been in the school for a year and then everything is changed. Also, the sixth to eighth graders who have adjusted to their middle school life are going to be thrown into a completely different system for their education. At this point I know my opinion can't change anything so I hope they put 110 percent into making the transition as smooth and efficient as possible."

School board member Scott Losier provided his stance.

"It's a sad time to see this school finally close," he wrote in an email. "It breaks my heart, and I pray that everything works out in the best interest of the children. I did not vote yes for this reconfiguration, but I will stand by and support the staff and administration as they prepare for the big moves that come with this closure. I do have one thing to say and that is that parents and students need to attend school board meetings when big decisions like this are taking place and speak up in the public comment sections of the board meetings. We have a very dedicated team of teachers, administrators and board members who care so deeply and we will make this closing of Brown and transition into the other two schools as organized and with as much support as we can."

Martin Lord Osman
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