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Memorial School closing vote unaninous

Date: 4/5/2010

April 5, 2010

WILBRAHAM - The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted unanimously to accept a plan to reorganize Wilbraham's elementary and middle schools. Under the new model, initially proposed by Superintendent M. Martin O'Shea on March 9, beginning this fall all Wilbraham second and third graders will be assigned to Stony Hill Elementary School and all Wilbraham fourth and fifth graders will be assigned to Soule Road Elementary School. Wilbraham Middle School, which previously served students in grades seven and eight, will become a grade six through eight middle school. Under this scenario, Memorial Elementary School in Wilbraham would be closed for the foreseeable future.

The proposal is based on declining enrollment, declining state aid and budget deficits, Memorial School's facility needs and best practice in education. The new model will save the district approximately $768,600 annually in staffing and operational costs.

Currently, Soule Road Elementary School, Stony Hill Elementary School and Memorial Elementary School serve students in grades two through six. The proposal does not directly affect Mile Tree Elementary School in Wilbraham, Green Meadows Elementary School or Thornton W. Burgess Middle School in Hampden, or the district's high school, Minnechaug Regional.

HWRSD School Committee Chair Peter Salerno acknowledged that Memorial is a "cherished school." However, he went on to say that "without Memorial's closure, the budget called for cuts which would have increased class size, impacted core classes, challenged the music and arts offerings and forced athletic programs to be re-evaluated." Salerno further noted that the new model "will provide a sound structure for the future that is both affordable for our taxpayers and meets the demanding goals of quality education for all our children."

HWRSD School Committee Vice Chair D. John McCarthy explained that "the model will have big advantages in terms of teachers sharing and adopting the best instructional methods." McCarthy urged his fellow School Committee members to remember that what is really important is "the people in the building rather than the bricks and mortar."