On the ballfields of Raymond, the chatter these days centers around the fate of school choice with consolidation on the horizon.

“It’s been a hot topic of conservation for several months now,” said Wendy Trask, Raymond school board member.

“We have heard many parents become vocal in telling the school board members or sending us e-mails directly that they are for choice no matter what school they merge with,” Trask said.

Historically, because the town of Raymond does not have a high school, parents have the ability to send their children to various schools including Windham High School, Gray/New Gloucester High School, and Poland High School.

Parents also have the ability to send their children to a private school, if the parent pays any additional costs above the town’s yearly cost in tuition, which is roughly $8,300, according to the Maine Department of Education.

According to department spokesman David Connerty-Marin, parents in Raymond will continue to be able to send their kids to the various public or private schools, even if they join with another school district(s).

If a parent chooses a private or public school that costs more than the allotted $8,300, parents pay the difference, Connerty-Marin said.

If Raymond consolidates with district(s) that have lower yearly tuition costs, the town of Raymond would pay the difference for parents to send their kids to another public or private school, up to the $8,300.

In other words, he said, “Raymond pays for Raymond kids to have school choice” under consolidation.

School choice was one of the factors in Deb Cutten’s decision to move to the town in 1995.

“That sounded appealing to us at the time,” Cutten said.

“That’s my primary concern is that we will not have choice as we do now,” Cutten said.

Cutten, who has a 10-year-old daughter, said she is not alone in her concern. While she said her daughter and her daughter’s friends pay little thought to where they may attend school four years from now, among the parents, there’s a sense of unease.

“It is an important topic amongst my friends,” Cutten said. “Most of us are watching the school board meetings on Channel 3, and there’s a lot of buzz after the meeting.”

Cutten is also concerned with how consolidation will affect the cost of tuition, if she were to decide to send her daughter to a private school such as North Yarmouth Academy, Waynflete Portland, or Hebron Academy.

Adding to the concern, Cutten said she is aware the fate of school choice will come down to referendum vote by the town, probably at the end of the year, according to a timeline established by the state.

According to Trask, the school’s committee, with representatives from Windham, Westbrook and Raymond, has the ability to uphold or overturn school choice, but, according to Trask, residents will have their say first.

“We will not go forth without referendum to see the percentage of the town that wants choice,” Trask said.

Trask said Raymond has about 240 students of high school age. According to Trask, most go to Windham, Gray-New Gloucester High School or Poland Regional High School or Cheverus High School, a Catholic high school in Portland.

Raymond also has a contract with Windham High School to send at least 50 percent of its students to high school there, Trask said. Trask said the contract lasts until 2013.

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