Pembroke takes first steps toward consolidating Hill, Village schools

  • SAU 53 Superintendent Patty Sherman (right) answers a question during a community forum on the merging of Pembroke Village and Hill schools Tuesday. Nick Stoico / Monitor staff

  • The proposed layout for Pembroke Hill School for the 2019-20 academic year. Pembroke Village and Hill schools are merging with the Village school closing at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) Nick Stoico/ Monitor staff

  • Pembroke Hill School will welcome students from the Village School next year. Nick Stoico / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/18/2018 5:14:13 PM

Jillian Spring thought that Pembroke Village School would last as long as her memories of being a kindergarten and first-grade student there, until last month when the district decided it will shut the school at the end of the academic year.

“It was surprising,” Spring said. “I went there, and you sort of assume all of the places you went to school are going to stay the same. But I understand the need for renovations and that can be cost prohibitive.”

A school board-appointed committee voted unanimously in September to recommend the school be closed and have kindergarten through fourth-grade consolidated at the Pembroke Hill School, as opposed to spending $4 million to $8 million on renovating the Village school.

“This all started with an engineering study and we realized it was going to be millions of dollars to bring the Village School into compliance,” said SAU 53 Superintendent Patty Sherman. “It’s not that Village is bad or that it isn’t safe, but to come up to today’s standards and the millions of dollars we would need to spend just didn’t make sense for the community.”

Like many districts across the state, Pembroke has seen its enrollment decline across all of its schools in recent years. The district once had five teachers in each grade, Sherman said, but over the years each grade dropped to four teachers while still keeping class sizes around 15 to 18 students.

The decision to close the Village school triggers the creation of two additional committees – one exploring what to do with the Village school building, and the other looking into future expansion projects at the Hill School, which currently holds grades two through four. Both of those committees are being assembled.

The district held its first of three community forums on Tuesday focused on the process of closing Village and consolidating at Hill. The district is seeking questions and feedback from the community. The topic will likely be a mainstay at future school board meetings, where the public can also ask questions and give feedback.

At Tuesday’s forum, Sherman, joined by Hill School Principal Suzie Griffith and Maintenance Director Josh Coughlin, presented a reorganized layout of Hill School to include eight classrooms split between kindergarten and first grade. Grades two through four all have four classrooms apiece.

The plan includes modular classrooms installed on the blacktop outside of the school where students play at recess. Some of the 20 or so people attending the forum raised concerns about the quality of conditions in modular classrooms, and Coughlin tried to put their worries at ease.

“The modular experience has changed,” he said. “The company is going to build that modular to the specs we have been given. It’s going to be brand new. It’s going to have its own heat, its own air conditioning, it’s going to have bathrooms. There will be two 900-square-foot classrooms in there.”

As for recess, Griffith said the fields surrounding the school will be open for kids to play and also hopes to open space within the school during recess as well.

Sherman said bus times will stay the same, putting to rest a rumor one resident said he heard about buses starting an hour earlier. Sherman also said that a study conducted last year concluded that 30 additional cars are expected during drop-off and pickup, but there will be no additional busses.

The next two forums are scheduled for Feb. 21 and April 9 at Pembroke Hill School. Sherman said the community’s input is vital to a smooth process going forward.

“There’s just a lot of moving parts,” Sherman said. “My only fear is we are going to forget something or won’t think of something that is going to happen. That’s why we’re soliciting so much feedback.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321 or

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