WINDHAM -- Of the five schools included in a regionalization proposal, Windham Elementary is the smallest by far.
But officials in Windham say that doesn't mean the town's young pupils are being short-changed.
So, while not offering a prediction on the outcome of an Oct. 8 vote on forming a new, regional school district, Windham School Board Chairwoman Carolyn Partridge said she's confident that the town's elementary can continue to stand alone.
For evidence, she points to a recent letter from state Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca commending the school's students on their above-average scores in reading and math on the NECAP standardized test.
"I think that indicates that our students are doing exceptionally well," Partridge said. "We were congratulated for having met adequate yearly progress targets for all student groups."
Advocates for a unified educational district encompassing the towns of Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane, Townshend and Windham have said a regional approach -- with one school board overseeing operations and a smaller number of elementary schools -- could save money and improve educational opportunities.
But Windham residents now find themselves in a somewhat awkward spot: School administrators there pulled out of the regionalization effort last year because they saw no significant benefit in it, but the town nonetheless will be included in Oct. 8 voting on formation of the unified district.
Even the logistics of that vote bother some in Windham. On Monday, Partridge was trying to determine how much the Australian Ballot voting would cost the local school board.
"The school directors have concerns because our understanding was that we could withdraw from this process at any time. Now, we find that is not the case and that the school board will be responsible for the cost of the election, which was not a part of our budget," Partridge said.
"However, we anticipate that there will be an informational meeting held at the school on a date to be determined," she added.
Emily Long, who has chaired a committee studying the possibility of a unified district, said those meetings have been tentatively scheduled pending confirmation with officials in each affected town.
Long is encouraging voters in the five towns to read the unified district's proposed articles of agreement. They are available online at www.windhamcentralboard.org.
"There will be a lot of work in the next few weeks to inform people," Long said.
The unified district -- labeled Windham Central Education District (WCED) at this point -- will not happen unless voters in Brookline, Jamaica, Newfane and Townshend support it.
But, because of Windham's uncertainty, the district's articles of agreement have been written to accommodate both acceptance and rejection there.
"If these articles are approved by the Windham voters, Windham will be a full participant in the WCED with a voting member on the board," the documents say.
Things will get more complicated if the district is rejected in Windham, primarily because the town nevertheless will continue to send its middle school and high school students to Leland & Gray, which would be part of the new WCED.
That means Windham would have to have a voice on the WCED board for matters related specifically to Leland & Gray. The proposed articles of agreement handle it this way:
"If the Windham voters do not approve the articles, the Windham School District will remain intact for grades preK-6 and will be represented by a voting member on the WCED board for matters related to grades 7-12."
A "no" vote in Windham and a "yes" vote in the other four towns also would complicate the new district's budgeting process.
If all five towns approve the district, there would be just one budget for all schools.
But if Windham is the sole town rejecting the district, there would be three budgets going forward: One for Windham's elementary, one for the new district's other elementary schools and a third spending plan covering all five towns' secondary students.
"Budget adoption will need to occur as if the elementary and secondary portions of the new district (WCED) were separate, requiring a separate vote for each," the articles of agreement say. "Windham will only vote on the WCED secondary budget and the Windham Elementary PreK-6 budget."
Partridge, however, does not see the situation as all that complicated for Windham residents.
For purposes of the town's elementary school, "my understanding is that Windham would stand alone," she said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.