Keep Woodsville Open coalition using live-streaming and other tools to keep residents informed
When the residents and educators in Haverhill learned there was a movement to convince officials and voters to send the town’s children to Vermont for school to avoid paying for needed repairs on their own schools, they went to work.
Concerned citizens, along with current and former students, came together to discuss the funding needed for upgrades and updates at Woodsville Elementary School and Woodsville High School. Out of these discussions, the Keep Woodsville Open (KWO) coalition was formed and currently includes local citizens, students, alumni, and business owners. Their mission is to keep Woodsville schools open and Woodsville students in town.hen the residents and educators in Haverhill learned there was a movement to convince officials and voters to send the town’s children to Vermont for school to avoid paying for needed repairs on their own schools, they went to work.
Based on possible plans the group had heard from the school board regarding moving students out of the state, coalition members felt it was time to be sure all the facts were available before voting on such a drastic measure.
They had heard a lot of promises about the savings that came with such a move, but hadn’t seen any studies to back them up. What was clear to them all was that taxpayers would still be paying to educate students no matter where they were sent.
Sending students out of state means people not from Haverhill will be deciding how much it costs to educate Woodsville students and sending the bill to the town.
Questions like the cost of busing students out of state, and which state education standards apply to Woodsville students remain unanswered. The coalition believes there are just too many unknowns at this point.
“People have always seen the value of a quality education. The great American workforce is built upon a quality education. We all know that very, very few of us can afford the cost of a K-12 education on our own, so for more than 100 years, communities have promised to share the cost of educating our students,” said Linda Blake, retired Woodsville Elementary School teacher. “Public education is built on the idea that the value of an education is so great for our children and our future, that we all promise to share in its cost – even if our children are no longer in school.”
Coalition members want to be sure that the town does what’s best for Woodsville students. Public education is based on local, public control in New Hampshire. Sending students to out-of-state schools robs Woodsville parents and taxpayers of that control, and robs Woodsville schools and community of vital funding and resources.
The group established a Facebook page (Keep Woodsville Open) and website (keepwoodsvilleopen.com) to encourage dialog and provide information. They also encouraged everyone to attend the August 14 School Board meeting. For those who were not able to attend, the group livestreamed the Board meeting, and received almost 1,000 views and more than 200 comments. KWO also plans on livestreaming the next board meeting on September 11.
Comments on the Facebook page support keeping the schools open and the students in town. “We need to keep it open. And WES. The kids need sports and music. If they go somewhere else they may not get to play. This town would be dead without our schools. We like going to the games. Do some fund raising. Keep our schools open,” said one post.
A recent editorial in the local paper, the Journal Opinion, supports the group and their efforts. “We applaud the effort. Apathy is not good for anyone. The school’s future is important to so many in the community, and one that should galvanize the public into action this fall. Livestreaming upcoming school board meetings will help keep community members engaged during deliberations on this important subject.”
Members of the Keep Woodsville Open (KWO) coalition attended the August 14th Haverhill Cooperative School Board meeting and listened to representative from Black River Design, an architect company from Montpelier, VT, present a revised budget detailing the cost for repairs.
During the meeting, the school board agreed to take a closer look at the repair and upgrade items and their associated costs so the community can afford the expense. KWO supports the School Board’s efforts to take a hard look at what is needed and is hopeful that the School Board will present a total cost that addresses student’s needs and that the community can afford.
The School Board also reported they still feel the need to report the costs associated with tuitioning students to Oxbow, VT. KWO strongly believes that the long-term effects of closing a vibrant school with more than 200 students will have a negative effect on their communities.
“We are pleased the School Board has taken a more focused approach to renovations and repairs. KWO will continue to be active and assure that Woodsville students have a voice, and remain committed to bringing the voters accurate and factual information pertaining to the repairs and upgrades needed at WHS,” said Dylan Farr, of the Keep Woodsville Open coalition.
“Community members coming together to support public education is what this effort is all about,” said Michelle McCord, NEA-NH UniServ Director for the North Country Region. “The effort has had positive results so far and should really serve as a model for other communities faced with similar issues.”