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Windham votes to shutter elementary school

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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WINDHAM, Vt. (WCAX) - Windham Elementary School will be closing bases on the results of a razor-close townwide vote Tuesday night, but the community remains divided about the decision.

Some parents in the town of Windham petitioned to close Windham Elementary school, saying they want more opportunities for their students. On Tuesday, 272 ballots were cast out of the 362 registered voters. Of those, 137 to 135 supported closing the school.

“Some people love the school, some people don’t. The school is not bad, but I just don’t think it has all the opportunities and I don’t think it is equitable compared to what is down the road,” said Erin Kehoe, a parent who voted to close. She had originally wanted the school to merge with Townshend when Act 46 began in their community. “They were offering things that Windham could not, like free pre-k included with that district.” Kehoe paid to send her daughter to Townshend for preschool, but she now attends WES for kindergarten because she has to.

Alexis Mialkowski’s six-year-old son, Tucker, attends second grade. “I don’t think there is any opportunity he is missing here,” she said. The school is one of the main reasons why she says their family bought a house in the area. “He loves the staff, he loves the school, he loves everything they do.”

Mialkowski says the small classrooms are beneficial and does not look forward to swapping her five-minute drive to 20. “With all that we’ve lost with COVID in the past year-and-a-half, taking away their school right now is heartbreaking, my son is so upset,” she said.

Some voters say the wording of the ballot was confusing, leading them to vote a different way than they thought. The town also voted not to pay for independent town tuition. Windham Town Clerk Michael McLaine says a recount will take place Saturday. “We’re a small town and people are impassioned for both sides, so election law is written for this very reason,” McLaine said.

But the community remains divided and discussion of a reconsideration petition is floating around town. “We saw this effect with the windmills and we saw this effect with the ACT 46, and now we are going to see this again. I don’t know what’s going to happen there and I feel it’s going to rip our community more apart,” Kehoe said.

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