RIPTON — Ripton Elementary School will soon prove that it is literally willing to go the distance to stabilize — and even increase — its student enrollment.
Ripton school directors last week agreed to run a new bus service to Hancock and Granville this fall to give families in those Route 100 communities extra incentive to attend Ripton Elementary.
Granville and Hancock had to close their shared elementary school a few years ago in wake of declining enrollment. Those towns currently tuition their K-12 students to schools in surrounding communities, including in Rochester, Warren, Ripton and Middlebury.
Seven of the Ripton school’s current 51 students hail from Hancock, Granville and Goshen. The infusion of those students has helped Ripton in its efforts to make sure its school remains vibrant in the face of lower student counts. Ripton is among seven Addison Central Supervisory Union school communities that have been discussing ways to collaboratively share resources and governance structure. The ACSU schools will convene a summit on this topic on Wednesday, June 13, at 6:30 p.m., at the Middlebury Union High School cafeteria.
In the meantime, Ripton Elementary is looking at ways to strengthen itself, and providing the extra bus service fell in line with that thinking, according to local school board member Willem Jewett.
“Clearly, expanding our base as a small school, given our demographics, is important,” Jewett said. “But we are asking people to join our educational institution, not just help our bottom line.”
Jewett was part of a Ripton school delegation that met with Hancock and Granville officials and parents last month to discuss educational partnerships. Folks in Hancock and Granville quickly warmed to the idea of a bus.
“For our parents, (a bus) would be really helpful for them,” said Hancock school board Chairwoman Rose Juliano. “It really would be an asset for us.”
Juliano explained that many local parents now have to come up with their own student transportation. Many have been carpooling, she said.
Hancock tuitioned out 47 K-12 children last year. Eleven of them went to Rochester, Juliano noted. But she noted Rochester Elementary’s tuition rate now exceeds $15,000 per year. Ripton’s stands at $11,500. The town must pay for whatever public school option individual local families consider. But Ripton is looking like more of a bargain in comparison to come of the other options, Juliano acknowledged — especially when you add free bus service.
Ripton, as the receiving school, would be financially responsible for the bus route. The cost of the service is tentatively estimated at $16,000 to $20,000 annually, according to ACSU business manager Laura Nassau.
It’s an expense that would be recovered through the tuitions paid by the sending towns, Jewett said.
“(Ripton) might draw more students as parents realize this bus service has come to fruition,” Juliano said.
Bruce Hyde is chairman of the Granville school board. He said the Ripton bus route would be a valuable service and could prompt more Route 100-area students to continue on to Middlebury Union High School through the ACSU transportation network.
“It’s a great set-up with Ripton; the kids can go to Middlebury and be set up all the way,” Hyde said.
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