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Focus on Franklin (Part 1): What does the city have to offer its children?

  • Owen Brouillard, 12, hugs one of his family’s ducks that live next to his Pine Street home in Franklin. Owen’s mom, Jackie, says she is happy raising her children in the city, but she’s “kind of disappointed in the school system.” Photos by ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Jackie Brouillard stands in her Pine Street driveway with her youngest child, Kai, 4. A Franklin native, Brouillard said she’s decided to stay and raise her kids in Franklin, though she has major concerns about the school system. During the 2014-15 school year, the district had the lowest cost-per-pupil spending in the state. ABOVE: Scarlett Kelly, 4, plays with a laundry basket at Final Rinse Laundromat in Franklin last week. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

  • Owen Brouillard, 12, leaves the enclosure holding his family’s collection of fowl recently. His mother, Jackie, takes her kids into downtown Franklin twice a month to spend an entire Saturday enjoying what it has to offer.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Kathleen Kelly, 25, laughs with her 4-year-old daughter, Scarlett, at Final Rinse Laundromat. Kelly said as a working mother, she appreciates the community programs available for her kids, though she’d like to see more parks in West Franklin.  Kathleen Kelly, 25, laughs with her 4-year-old daughter, Scarlett, at Final Rinse Laundromat. Kelly said as a working mother, she appreciates the community programs available for her kids, though she’d like to see more parks in West Franklin. 

  • Ryan Robb, who runs Lakes Region Handyman, works on a project with his 4-year-old son, Tyler, at their Smith Hill Road home recently. Robb and his wife, Jessica, plan to move to Northfield soon and said while they like Franklin, they don’t want to send Tyler to its schools.

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  • The Robbs did praise the outdoor recreation opportunities in West Franklin, such as the Northern Rail Trail, pictured here. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Webster Lake is one of Franklin's outdoor recreation opportunities for families, as pictured here recently from Lagace Beach. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, May 22, 2016

Editor’s note:  In the midst of school district budget woes, downtown development and a focus on community, a lot is happening in  Franklin these days. The question is, how do residents – those who don’t attend meetings regularly  – feel about it? The Monitor recently spent three days asking around town.

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In his bright blue muck boots, 12-year-old Owen Brouillard opened the door to a gated area next to his Pine Street house, where the neighbors let his family keep ducks, quails and an old chicken. He chased around a few ducks before finally catching one, rubbing his cheek against its neck.

“I love our ducks,” said 34-year-old Jackie Brouillard, Owen’s mother. Watching her younger, 4-year-old son, Kai, play with sand and rocks he found in their driveway, she said, “I’m happy raising my kids here.”

But, Brouillard added, “I’m kind of disappointed in the school system – I definitely don’t think that enough money is going into the school system.”

In particular, she said she’d like to have the curriculum lined up better with the community’s needs to help students stay and work in the city.

“The reality is around here, people need skills and stuff for trades,” Brouillard said.

Funding Franklin schools has been a difficult topic for a number of years as the city has lost state aid and struggled to adequately cover the costs of the school district through taxes alone.

Things are especially challenging this spring: at a meeting last week, the district’s school board members said if the district doesn’t receive some sort of financial help, it will have to cut 24 teachers to stay in line with projected revenue. 

Franklin’s cost-per-pupil has consistently stayed about $4,000 below the state average the last seven years, according to Department of Education data. During the 2014-15 school year, the average spent per pupil was $14,374.93. Franklin spent $10,269.08, the lowest in the state last year. 

Brouillard said she’d like to see some money transferred from city salaries into educating the future of Franklin. She called herself a “die-hard” Franklin native, staying to raise her kids while working at the Vitex aluminum extrusions company. Brouillard said she is an anomaly among her high school classmates. 

“Most of them just go on to other towns,” she said. Asked whether any might move back, Brouillard said of the people she knew, “They’re waiting to see how this school thing goes.”

Recreational opportunities

From the perspective of a recent graduate – 18-year-old Jacqui Paciorek – 12 years in the Franklin school system wasn’t too bad. She graduated early last spring and is in the midst of taking a year off before heading to the University of Colorado. 

“They’re very good – I mean, I’ve been here since kindergarten,” she said while standing on the porch of her Sanborn Street house. Before rushing off to work one of her several jobs – earning money for school – Paciorek added that doing theater with the Franklin Opera House was key to her school experience. 

“That was the only thing that got me through high school,” she said. 

The city offers other supports and enrichment activities outside of the school district.

For example, Franklin Recreation Center is important to 9-year-old student and resident Noel Sarkias. While eating dinner with her grandparents at the Route 3 McDonald’s last week, Sarkias said she goes to the summer camp there.

“There’s always something to do,” she said. When Sarkias isn’t there or in Franklin Middle School she may go out for pizza with her family, or go play in one of Franklin’s parks. 

“We do a lot of activities,” Sarkias said. 

Other recreational opportunities for families include outdoor tennis courts, a skate park, the Boys & Girls Club, campgrounds, fishing spots, bike paths and beaches. 

Kathleen Kelly, a 25-year-old mother and Century Magnetics International employee, praised the Bessie Rowell Community Center and local Boys & Girls Club, which are essential to families like hers where both parents work. 

While doing laundry at Final Rinse Laundromat with her 4-year-old, Scarlett, Kelly also complimented the city’s River’s Edge skatepark.

“I think it would be nice if they did more things like that for the teenage crowd to hang out at,” she said. 

Enrollment down

Ryan and Jessica Robb, ages 29 and 30, like bringing their 4-year-old son Tyler to the outdoor attractions that the more rural parts of West Franklin offer. The couple is currently living in a home on Smith Hill Road, just across the street from the Northern Rail Trail running along Route 3 and about a 10 minute drive from Webster Lake. 

Ryan – who runs his Lakes Region Handyman business – was working with Tyler on a project outside one recent evening while Jessica watched. The couple said that despite their love for Franklin, they plan on moving to a Northfield property soon, partly due to their concern about the city’s schools. 

“I don’t want to send my kids to school here,” Ryan said. 

They’re not alone. Department of Education data show a 22 percent decline in Franklin School District enrollment over the past decade, down from 1,465 students in 2005-06 to 1,139 students this past school year. 

Franklin as whole has also lost people since 2005, though at a much less dramatic rate. The city has downsized from 8,709 people in 2005 to 8,462 in 2014, or by 2.8 percent. 

Jackie Brouillard has made the choice to stay, however, and raise ducks, quails and chickens and send her kids to Franklin schools. While she is hoping the schools will improve down the road, she said there’s plenty to do in downtown Franklin with her kids in the meantime. 

“I think that’s been getting better – every other Saturday of the month we spend the entire day there,” she said. They start with breakfast at Ralph and Joe’s, go paint some ceramics at Nan’s, and then maybe go to Odell Park. 

“I’m really loving it,” Brouillard said. 

Coming tomorrow: Residents share their thoughts about the downtown development and how the city might continue growing. 

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)