Durham-Middlefield voters to decide on closing elementary school

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Residents of Durham and Middlefield will cast a vote during the November referendum whether to keep Lyman Elementary School open or shut it down — a discussion that has been going on for years.

The Regional School District 13 Board of Education recently recommended closing John Lyman Elementary School and will hold a public hearing on Aug. 11 at Coginchaug Regional High School to discuss this initiative and hear citizen’s feedback. 

The decision to close the school comes after years of declining enrollment in the district and projections for that trend to continue. According to the independent audit that was conducted, enrollment does not support having five school buildings in operation.

The regional school district predicted middle school enrollment to decrease by 17.6 percent with the most substantial declines happening over the next three years. Similarly, high school enrollment is projected to decline by 36 percent over the next 10-year period. 

According to school officials, the average cost per year of operating John Lyman is $5.64 million, which includes salaries and all annual operating costs, such as heat, electricity, etc. 

Closing the school would allow taxpayers to save $1.5 million in operating costs as well as avoid $4.25 million in capital expenses. About $2.8 million would be immediately needed for repairs, should Lyman remain open. Should Lyman close, the savings may then be used to improve education directly or offer some tax relief. 

“The goal of the RSD 13 Board of Education continues to be conserving the resources of the community. This decision enhances the opportunity to make changes in our school system to enhance the educational value for our students and teachers,” said Bob Moore, board chairman.

“As a Board of Education, it is a priority to provide learners with the best education possible,” the RSD13 stated. 

CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, a professional services network, conducted an independent review in May 2021 and verified the accuracy and rationality of these projections, district officials said. 

Currently, John Lyman serves students in grades K-4. If the referendum passes, students would be transferred to Brewster Elementary School and Memorial School. Certified staff would move with students. 

Residents will have input to the redistricting plan. 

“If the referendum passes John Lyman ES could be closed as early as the 2022-23 school year, but the Board of Education would make that actual decision in the future after receiving additional input from families, employees, and the community,” according to the district statement.

It will now be up to the voters of Durham and Middlefield to decide. A referendum question will be on the ballot in November.

nKorytnikova@record-journal.com203-317-2444Twitter: @n_korytnikova

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