FAIRFAX — The Franklin West Supervisory Union Act 46 Study Committee met for the last time at BFA-Fairfax on Thursday night when they voted unanimously to disband after 10 months of work.
The decision came after 90 minutes of discussion about how to proceed following nearly a year exploring how to merge under the landmark education law. The study culminated in presentations on two potential options at a well-attended meeting in Georgia two weeks ago.
Then, the 10-member group split in half to discuss what it deemed the most viable pursuits for FWSU schools to satisfy the law: a three-town merger requiring construction of a new high school, or a Fairfax/Fletcher merger and Georgia standalone.
Since January, the group steadily whittled down options in hopes of landing on one that would meet the state board of education’s approval to bring before voters next Town Meeting Day.
Before an audience of about two dozen people on Thursday night, the committee again debated the pros and cons of both options. The clear consensus of the group: There was none.
Rep. Barbara Murphy (I-Fairfax) read an email she sent to the committee expressing her discontent with both options, noting neither plan would satisfy Fairfax taxpayers’ requests for stabilization and both would end up costing residents money.
Fletcher board member and committee chairman Todd Baumeister reflected on his subcommittee’s efforts to study the three-town merger.
“For every strength, you could find a weakness,” he said.
Committee members also worried about how to guarantee a positive vote for unification in all three towns would lead to another for a construction bond – BFA-Fairfax can’t house all FWSU students; though related, the two questions could not appear in one single ballot item, according to state guidance.
“We’re saying, ‘We don’t have enough space, you won’t allow us [school] choice, you need to come up with a third option,’” Fairfax member Scott Mitchell said. “Do we really want to play chicken with [the state]?”
Members also agreed it would be a tough sell given the remaining unknowns, including where a new high school would even be sited. Questions of engineering, economics and environment would require more time and more money, they agreed.
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