GUILFORD -- Next month, Guilford Central School teachers and staff will say goodbye to a larger-than-usual contingent of students.
Eighth-graders will get their standard graduation ceremony on June 11.
But the pending closure of Guilford's middle school means the town's sixth- and seventh-graders also won't be back, so officials have arranged for a separate ceremony for those students scheduled for June 17.
"It's just sort of a send-off," said Carole Mills, who chairs Guilford Town School Board.
Town Meeting voters in March voted 130-91 to send Guilford's sixth- and seventh-grade students to Brattleboro Area Middle School starting in the fall.
Some had opposed the change, arguing that Guilford maintains smaller class sizes and "community-centered" learning for middle school students. But supporters of the move -- which included the town school board -- said BAMS offers greater educational and extracurricular opportunities than the smaller Guilford Central School can afford.
Guilford school board also saved money by sending middle schoolers to BAMS.
Officials at both the Guilford and Brattleboro schools have been working for months to make the transition easier for parents and affected students. And part of that transition, administrators say, is properly recognizing those students who are leaving Guilford Central School.
Graduation for eighth-graders is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 11 at the school. And at 1 p.m. June 17 -- the next-to-last day of school -- there will be an all-school assembly honoring departing sixth- and seventh-graders.
Mills said parents and family members are invited, and refreshments will be served after the event.
Additionally, officials are scheduling a teacher appreciation breakfast that includes recognition for those instructors who are not returning due to the middle school transition.
"It will be for all the teachers," Principal John Gagnon said. "And there will be special recognition for those teachers who are leaving and those who are retiring."
The departure of Guilford's middle school students and staff will leave empty rooms at the Central School. Administrators continue to look into the establishment of a preschool at the site, though that effort will take a few years.
"The board is still committed to exploring that," Gagnon said. "They're in the preliminary information-gathering stage."
Mills has said she believes there is a demand for a Guilford preschool, though she said Windham Child Care Association is conducting an assessment to determine the extent of that need.
Officials also would have to modify the Central School inside and out to conform to preschool standards.
Mills said she remains optimistic about the preschool proposal.
"The two rooms that will be available look like they will be suitable sites," she said.
Board members recently learned they will have to continue such work without Penny Lussier, who submitted her resignation after serving more than two years on the school board.
Mills said the board accepted Lussier's resignation "incredibly reluctantly," noting her contributions to the school and its students.
"She's an incredibly hard worker. She's dedicated to our school and the needs of our children," Mills said. "I'm going to miss her terribly."
Officials are seeking candidates to fill the board vacancy. Guilford residents who are interested can send a letter addressed to Chair, Guilford Town School Board c/o WSESU, 53 Green St., Brattleboro Vt. 05301.
Letters of interest are due by May 20.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.