Lincoln School Board reacts to state’s rejection of bond

LINCOLN — The rejection of the Lincoln Community School (LCS) bond proposal might just be a blessing in disguise, Lincoln residents said at last night’s school board meeting.
The school board and Building Committee met Wednesday, Sept. 22, after earlier this week calling off the Nov. 2 vote on the $3 million-$4 million bond to renovate or rebuild the school. The board cancelled the public meeting originally scheduled for last night after hearing that Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca had rejected the board’s preliminary proposal, but still met to discuss the next steps for both the bond and for the school, as a whole.
Though the room was split as to whether or not the board should appeal Vilaseca’s rejection, board members and residents alike were frustrated by the commissioner’s seemingly blasé response to their proposal.
“This letter is so vague and very frustrating to me,” said Lincoln resident and state Rep. Mike Fisher, regarding Vilaseca’s rejection letter. “It’s one thing if the intent of the letter is to say, ‘We’re in really tough economic times, and the size of your proposal is too large given what we’re facing. I can’t approve it,’ but it didn’t say that.”
Some were even concerned that the commissioner may be using the rejection of the Lincoln proposal as a tool to push through an agenda that would shape rural education and worried that not appealing his decision could create a precedent.
Appealing the commissioner’s decision, however, is just one of four options that school board Chairman David Venman laid on the table as possible next moves for the Lincoln school to take. Other options included:
• Abandoning the original proposal, closing the school and moving students to Bristol schools.
• Looking for students from other schools or towns, like Ripton, to bring into the Lincoln school system, thereby strengthening LCS finances.
• Resubmitting a scaled-back version of the original bond proposal.
Of these options, most residents seemed to favor pursuing the possibility of bringing students from Ripton, whose total enrollment is projected to fall from the current 47 down to as low as 27 students for 2011-2012. Additionally, many local residents at the meeting seemed grateful for an opportunity to reevaluate the bond proposal and to reduce both the scale and cost.
“I don’t know how many people in the community really feel that $4 million is OK,” said resident Nancy Marnellos. “I think it’s a good opportunity to cut back, and do only what we need to do.”
Members of the board did not reach a decision as to how they will proceed, but hope to move forward as soon as possible. They only have 30 days to appeal the commissioner’s decision should they decide to do so.
For a full report from the meeting, be sure to check Monday’s paper, in print or online at addisonindependent.com. Tamara Hilmes is at [email protected].

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