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### Aiming to Become the Premier Educational Institution in the State and Country

OTIS — Clementine Goulange, a Sandisfield resident, is currently in her second semester of kindergarten at Farmington River Regional Elementary School, where she is actively developing her reading and writing skills. Engaging in daily journaling activities with her classmates, the 5-year-old recently penned a story on triple-lined paper recounting her quest to have her ears pierced. While still hopeful for the piercing experience, she showcased her spelling prowess by accurately writing the word “Saturday” in clear print.

Carlee Herlihy, a fourth-grade student, is honing her writing skills under the guidance of teacher Bethany Mielke at Farmington River Regional School. The school boasts a remarkable staff to student ratio of 1:9 and an average class size of 13, resembling a private school environment within a public school setting. However, this comes at a cost, as Farmington River had the third-highest in-district, per-pupil expenditure in the state as of 2022, surpassing densely populated areas like Cambridge.

The school faces challenges stemming from low enrollment, rising costs, and an outdated regional school district agreement that places a disproportionate burden on Sandisfield taxpayers. The Farmington River Regional School Committee recently endorsed local assessments for Otis and Sandisfield, totaling $3,965,815.24, subject to approval at the upcoming town meetings.

Superintendent Timothy Lee described the modest increases in expenses, including contractual raises for unionized staff and capital investments. The funding distribution between Otis and Sandisfield reflects a 6040 split, aligning with student enrollment figures but highlighting disparities in financial capabilities. Efforts are underway to revise the agreement to alleviate the financial strain on Sandisfield and potentially allow for district dissolution.

Despite being a single-building district, Farmington River incurs costs akin to larger districts due to shared administrative services and specialized staff. The school’s financial hurdles coincide with declining enrollment trends, exacerbated by past disruptions and a competitive educational landscape. However, recent initiatives led by Principal Laurie Flower and Superintendent Lee aim to foster a positive and inclusive school culture, emphasizing community building and anti-bullying efforts.

The school’s commitment to excellence is evident through dedicated teachers, high parent engagement, and a collaborative approach to academic growth. With a vision to excel on a state and national level, Farmington River strives to be a beacon of quality education for its students and the broader community. The school’s optimistic outlook and focus on continuous improvement signal a promising path forward amidst demographic challenges and financial uncertainties.