On Tuesday, the towns of Cabot, Danville, Marshfield and Plainfield will vote on merging into one school district under Act 46. If all four towns vote "yes," it will be the beginning of the end for Cabot High School.
Currently, students in all grades from Marshfield and Plainfield attend the Twinfield Union School. Cabot and Danville each have their own pre-K through 12th grade schools.
The proposed merger would shut down Cabot's high school, and Cabot's ninth- through 12th-graders could attend either the Danville or Twinfield high school. Tuesday's vote will have to pass in all three school districts in order for the merger to go through.
According to some residents, closing Cabot's high school is a move that's overdue. Others say the small school is successful and worth saving.
The first thing to know about Cabot High School is that it's really small. Billie O'Connor is just finishing up her freshman year in Cabot, along with the six other people in her graduating class. She says it's tough not knowing if she'll have to move on to another school before she graduates.
"It's just really nerve-wracking, though, as a student here because I've been here since preschool and I just love this school so much," O'Connor says.
Cabot utilizes project-based learning, which is conducive to smaller student bodies. This year, for example, the high school produced an original history-based musical – pulling together history, art, music, writing and other skills.
Cabot's members of the Act 46 merger committee wanted to keep Cabot's high school open as a project-based learning academy, providing another option for all high school students in the proposed district. But they were outnumbered by the Danville and Twinfield committee members.
When the project-based learning academy option came off the table, the Cabot School Board came out against the merger. And some residents, like Susan Socks, are worried that Cabot stands to lose local control, and maybe its entire school, if it's so far outnumbered in a consolidated district.
"The one silver lining from all this is that it made a lot of people really sit down and say, 'What does it mean to have a school in the center of a village and what happens if we stand to lose that?'" Socks says.
However, there are plenty of people in Cabot who support the proposal. They say between tiny class sizes and aging infrastructure, it's just too expensive to keep Cabot's high school open.
Brigitte Codling, a mother of five, says her kids weren't all getting an adequate education in Cabot, so she's utilized a combination of home schooling, tutoring and regional school choice.
Four years ago, she was part of a group of residents leading the last charge to close the high school. And now that that option is back on the table, she's running for a spot on the new unified school board that will form if the vote passes.
"I feel like I can make a difference – not just for the few kids, but for all the kids," Codling says. "I know what they've gone through, the good and the bad. You know, I've been here for long enough to see how it can go well and how it can fall apart; how some kids can do well in a small school and some kids can not do well. Because I have all of them."
Codling says one of the reasons Cabot's high school classes are so small is because many families home-school, utilize regional school choice or simply move out of town. She says there are nine students in her daughter's eighth grade class, and she thinks only three are planning to attend Cabot next year. Her daughter will be going to Danville for high school, through the regional school choice program.
"She's set up her classes already," Codling says. "She was so excited that she had choices that, you know, you don't get at Cabot School. Not just because they don't have a bunch of choices, but [because] they don't really have any choices. You know, this is your curriculum and this is your path ... You don't get to sit down with the guidance counselor and look through an array of course offerings that you might be interested in."
But student Billie O'Connor says she doesn't understand how closing a school is offering students more choices.
"I know project-based learning isn't right for everybody, and that's why we should have the opportunity to go to different schools," O'Connor says. "But that doesn’t mean you should close down a school that works for so many people."