Belexit? Vote On A Return To Minuteman Tentatively Set For Special Town Meeting

Photo: Jim Gammell (left) and the Select Board discussing Belexit.

The United Kingdom is in the midst of a contentious Brexit debate while Belmont is about to enter into Belexit, its own passionate dialogue on whether to return as a member or make a final, clean break with Minuteman Regional Tech.

The Belmont Select Board unanimously voted Monday night, Sept. 9 to tentatively place an article on the upcoming Special Town Meeting in early November to recind leaving as a member town in the Minuteman Career and Technical High School district.

“This will be a very big debate in town but enough has changed that it warrants Town Meeting action,” said Select Board’s Chair Tom Caputo.

The possible reinstatement of Belmont in the nine-member district which runs the public vocational high school located in Lexington comes three years after Belmont voted to leave the district in a dispute over the construction of a new school building.

But just getting to a vote will depend on two major obstacles:

  • The current member communities will need to put away their hard feelings after Belmont left them to pay for the building and unanimously approve its return.
  • Is Belmont prepared, or can afford, to hand over a one-time buy-back fee of $472,000 on top of paying the annual tuition assessment of approximately $255,000 in the 2020 school year.

“We might not even get the chance to bring this to Town Meeting if these issues block it,” said Select Board’s Adam Dash. The Select Board will be holding a public meeting on the article in the coming weeks.

It was a long and bitter fight in Belmont and with the Minuteman leadership on the town’s continued membership in the district. In May 2016, Town Meeting voted 141-81 not to approve a $144 million bond issuance plan for the construction of a new Minuteman High School building.

“[T]his is the wrong school at the wrong time,” said Mark Paolillo, who spoke against the plan which would have saddled Belmont with an annual bill of $350,000 to $500,000 to pay for its portion of the school’s debt.

But times have changed, according to Jim Gammill, who is Belmont’s representative on the Minuteman School Board (this is the final year Belmont will have representation on the board) who has been working with the Belmont School District on determining the benefits and likely return to the vocational school as a member.

The new school – which opened last year – is experiencing a spike in enrollment from member and non-member communities which could put in doubt if all Belmont students could be accommodated if upward trends continue. Non-membership would mean Belmont residents would only be able to attend the school if any of the 630 seats are not taken by member town students.

Gammill said if the upward swing continues, within two years, a small number of Belmont students will be left out in the cold of the fully enrolled school.

“Is it worth taking that risk?” said Gammill.

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