Letter: Education options to consider for Readsboro

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Editor of the Reformer,

The Southern Valley Unified Union School District (SVUUSD) held a meeting on July 1 in Readsboro to address concerns residents had with the Board's decision to send Readsboro's seventh and eighth grades to Halifax for the next two years.

Administration stated Readsboro's lack of qualified applicants, high rate of turnover, and small class of five led to that decision. Readsboro was recently notified students tested in the bottom 5 percent of all students in the state and would be awarded $70,000 / year for the next three years, a total of $210,000 to assist in a remedy. If we can't get and keep teachers now, how will this $210,000 be utilized? The meeting revealed that Halifax's test scores were meeting or exceeding goals in all categories. An AOE website reported there were 253 elementary schools in Vermont. The bottom 5 percent that means we are at least the 12th worst performing school in the state and possible be the WORST? Definitely, not the desired result of the merger.

We lost 33 percent of our students this year, 61 down to 40. This is an average of four students per grade level. There was no expectation of this rapid decline and there is no evidence of future recovery. We are not doing our students justice by forcing them to attend Readsboro under these adverse conditions.

Now the harder part, options to correct. We must first realize that the quality of education we are providing for our students must be the top priority. We may have to abandon the idea we need a school to attract new people. It has not been a drawing card. In fact, many may realize small could be too small and see this as a huge negative (as it has), and could actually be a factor in not coming here? A small school that is one of the 12 worst performing in the state is no attraction.

Options to consider:

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1) Do nothing, pay additional money and accept poor educational results for our students. (Cheapest, worse case scenario.)

2) The electorate could, prior to July 2022, vote to close the school and send all students to Halifax, a mandate of the merger agreement. Benefits are a much better education, a lower tax rate as one building closes, see savings on payroll, insurance and operating costs etc. Transportation increases and the town would get its school building back to consider the site for its new municipal building. ( Best education, best cost savings and fits in the Municipal Building Plan ). A vote to close after July 2022 also requires a 100 percent approval of the SVUUSD Board, with no guarantee of getting the building back. The timing of action is very important.

3) The town could request that the SVUUSD vote to dissolve the merged district. This requires approval of both towns. If approved, Readsboro should then vote to close and "all" its students would have "choice" to attend wherever they chose. This would prove costlier as Halifax is presently carrying the financial burden of Readsboro's small size. ( Costly, but provides "choice" that is unavailable in 1 or 2 above.).

4) Await results of the Stamford/ Clarksburg merger plan. They should have a good indication by late July. Their situation is much different. If both towns vote to proceed, our options do not really change (above) at this time. If they do not agree to proceed, Stamford could apply to join the SVUUSD. If they do, and are accepted, we are now a three town, three school, one budget, one cost per pupil district. Readsboro could then close under Option 2. Students could then choose to attend either Stamford or Halifax and not be restricted to just Halifax. (Best option as it betters education, opportunities, saves money, expands "choice" and get the building back if done before July 2022).

This could be a win-win situation for all.

Larry Hopkins

Readsboro, July 8


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