Archive - Oct 16, 2008
By KATHRYN FLAGG
ADDISON COUNTY — Despite national trends of rising public school enrollments, Vermont schools are struggling to balance high costs and shrinking student populations — a problem that could prove especially trying for Addison County schools, where the total number of students has dropped slightly faster than the state average.
Between 2000 and 2008, the county’s student population fell 11.6 percent. Statewide, public school enrollment dropped 10.5 percent over that same period. Nationally, enrollment for public primary and secondary schools over that eight-year stretch rose over 4 percent.
With state education funding dependent upon the number of students attending a school, falling enrollments can be problematic for officials charged with balancing school budgets. The revenue generated by enrollment supports overhead costs like transportation and building maintenance — costs that continue to go up, despite shrinking student populations.
“We definitely are paying attention to (these trends), with enrollment numbers going down and the cost still increasing,” said Jill Remick, the communications director for the Vermont Department of Education.
And in a year when school budgets are bound to be tight — and new legislation could make the budget approval process more difficult — the state’s spending-per-pupil yardstick could be more important than ever.
Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Business Manager Greg Burdick said that he is keeping his eye on that all-important spending-per-pupil number — the number against which the state measures every school’s spending plan.
By ANDY KIRKALDY
VERGENNES — A major and long-awaited Vergennes project on a 12-acre parcel off Monkton Road that would include 25 senior housing units, a childcare center and 24 affordable single-family condominiums is beginning to wind its way through the city permit process.
The developers of the project — the first phase of which would be a 25,000-square-foot, $5.8-million elderly housing complex that would provide a community center and services as well 25 living units — are Addison County Community Trust, Housing Vermont Inc. of Burlington, Habitat for Humanity and Mary Johnson Children’s Center of Middlebury.
The site is accessed from the north side of Monkton Road by Armory Lane, and lies directly west of American Legion Post 14. Housing Vermont bought the land several years ago, and the project has been on the drawing boards since.
It has now almost completed a site plan review before the Vergennes Development Review Board, and Zoning Administrator and Interim City Manager Mel Hawley said a public hearing could be called as early as December.
Hawley said a hearing could have been called in November, but developers wanted to clarify the elderly housing “density bonus” the area’s Medium Density Residential zoning allows.
That zoning allows more units per acre than otherwise permitted if a project exclusively offers elderly housing. In Hawley’s opinion, that means the elderly housing component may need to be separated from the other parts of the larger Planned Unit Development (PUD).
“It’s my opinion to qualify for the bonus, the senior housing complex needs to sit on its own 4 acres ... so that it is not part of a PUD,” he said.
Hawley said the board could have a different interpretation, and a DRB discussion scheduled in November will focus at least in part on that issue.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury merchants on Saturday, Oct. 25, will give area adults and children a sweet preview of Halloween — and all that the downtown has to offer — in the first annual “Middlebury Spooktacular.”
The event, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m., is the brainchild of the Better Middlebury Partnership (formerly known as the Middlebury Business Association). The Spooktacular is somewhat of a throwback to Halloweens gone by, when a children’s parade used to meander its way around the downtown and Court Square and when the Middlebury Inn used to host a haunted house.
“It’s been several years since there’s been a Halloween celebration of any kind in Middlebury, and we felt it was something we should have again,” said BMP Coordinator Gail Freidin.
With that in mind, members of the BMP’s promotions committee set to work on a new event that could involve adults and kids alike. They came up with the Spooktacular, which will feature, among other things:
• Hay bales, luminaries and lit pumpkins and other Halloween décor adorning the town green on Oct 25. A rain date of Oct 26 has been set.
• Carved pumpkin and costume contests, family fun games, a “monster-mash” dance party and prizes.
• A children’s trick-or-treat sidewalk parade along Main Street that will leave the green at 4:15 p.m. Accompanied by parents and the Middlebury Police Explorers, the procession will cross to the post office, continue along Main Street to Cannon Park, cross to the Ilsley Memorial Library, and return to the green, stopping at each shop along the route.
Main Street merchants will have plenty of treats on hand and may even greet the parade participants at their doors in costume. Businesses not located on the parade route will be handing out goodies in Cannon Park.