PLAISTOW — The School Administrative Unit 55 Withdrawal Planning Committee took its next step toward leaving the two-district unit Tuesday, with a vote to move forward with withdrawal.

“We need a superintendent and their staff to focus solely on our district,” committee member Karen Steele of Atkinson said of her vote to leave SAU 55. “We need to have 100% focus on our district and our kids.” 

Committee and SAU 55 board Chair Kim Farah declined to comment for this story.

SAU 55 includes the Timberlane Regional School District — comprising students from Sandown, Atkinson, Plaistow and Danville — and the Hampstead School District. 

There will be a public hearing on the withdrawal plan Aug. 20. A time and place have not been announced.

The committee has met several times over the last three months and looked at the process of withdrawing from SAU 55, including staffing, costs, transportation and potential liabilities.

Steele said the committee worked well together.

“I’ve been very impressed,” Steele said. “We worked backwards as a team and determined milestones and what was to happen in that timeframe.” 

Steele said the research the committee compiled from other school districts that withdrew from SAUs shows “the trend over time is that multitown districts work better as their own SAU.”

“Should this district withdraw from the current SAU, I think we need to do a good job of educating all of the voters,” Steele said. 

Committee members will submit the withdrawal plan to the Timberlane and Hampstead school districts as well as the New Hampshire Board of Education to review with a target date of no later than Sept. 1. 

Steele said the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the plan at the hearing before it is sent to the New Hampshire Board of Education. Another chance for voters to ask questions, however, is at the deliberative session in February.

“(Timberlane) is not benefiting financially from this marriage (with Hampstead) and could possibly be subsidizing Hampstead,” Steele said in a statement. “The two districts have very different needs. Hampstead has only elementary and middle schools and is comprised of only one town (while Timberlane) has four towns, seven schools, a performing arts center and goes through high school.”

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