RAYMOND — A group of residents say that the town’s withdrawal from Regional School Unit 14 in favor of a standalone K-8 school district would do more harm than good.

Kaitlin LaCasse and Alissa Messer, who both have young children currently enrolled in RSU 14 schools and are active with the “Raymond: No on 1” campaign, said that the town would lose many benefits that they currently have with RSU 14.

“We firmly believe that Raymond students will have more educational opportunities if we stay in RSU 14,” LaCasse said.

They said that proponents’ main reasons for splitting from the district – division between the Windham and Raymond operations, tipped cost sharing agreements and lack of control for Raymond – are unfounded.

“Raymond residents deserve factual information and not a panic-stricken vote … This process has been riddled with major communication failures and, unfortunately, we don’t have clear data points,” Messer said earlier this week.

This is the second time since Windham and Raymond schools consolidated in 2008 that Raymond residents have successfully begun a withdrawal process. The first time was in 2014, but it ended in 2015 after a cost-sharing dispute was resolved.

The current proceedings began in 2018.

Teresa Sadak, who currently serves on the selectboard and who circulated the petition in May 2018 to start the withdrawal process a second time, could not be reached for comment.

The Withdrawal Committee’s selectboard representative, Rolf Olsen, said in August that the district functions as “two entities with some common administration.”

LaCasse said that over 20 educators and school board members, including Chair Jani Cummings, who taught at Raymond Elementary School for 38 years, have publicly expressed their opposition to splitting from Windham.

“Those of us on the School Board work hand-in-hand in service to our students and our communities, regardless of in which town we reside,” said Cummings in a statement posted to the “No on 1” Facebook page.

A recent survey conducted by the withdrawal committee showed a majority of respondents opposed withdrawing from the district.

Messer added that leaving the district would likely result in higher taxes and fewer resources for students, from access to sports programs to school choice for high school.

“There’s no representation for high school students (on the school board) and our guarantee from Windham to send our kids there is only good for 10 years. But after that, they do not have to accept our kids,” she said.

Windham is growing at a much higher rate than Raymond, she said, especially among school-age children, and Raymond students could be left out in the cold if Windham High School reaches maximum capacity in the next decade.

The Raymond school district would only be kindergarten through eighth grade, meaning there would be no representation for Raymond high schoolers on any school board.

Messer also said that the Withdrawal Committee has provided residents with an incomplete picture of the proposed budget and transition costs.

And with the COVID-19 crisis, LaCasse said, “I worry that (if the pandemic continues into another school year) as a standalone district, Raymond doesn’t have enough resources.”

Raymond residents will decide if the town should withdraw and form its own district, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, at the Nov. 3 election.

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