Sudbury school faces closure

SUDBURY — After a number of failed moves to possibly merge their elementary school with schools in neighboring towns, Sudbury residents will be asked to close the Sudbury Country School. A number of parents recently delivered a petition demanding that the school be closed and the town tuition its youngest students to other schools.
At a special school district meeting on Dec. 6, town voters will decide whether to authorize the Sudbury school board to close the school and send students to other public schools beginning in September of 2011.
Before December, Sudbury Principal Susan Coombs and her staff are hoping to inform community members as much as they can about the potential repercussions of closing the school.
Coombs said the families are concerned about recent declines in class size within the school. Enrollment at the kindergarten-sixth-grade school went from 33 students last year to 20 students this year.
One of the worries, said Coombs, is that the small class size will deny students the opportunity to interact with a broad range of peers.
And if the school closed, parents want to be able to choose where to send their children, whether it be to Middlebury or to even Burlington, Coombs said.
While the town would no longer be paying to support the school, it would have to pay school tuition to any other public school that the parents chose. This would likely be a losing proposition for the taxpayers, Coombs said. At $10,000 per pupil, Sudbury Country School’s per-pupil cost is the lowest in the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union. She said that many of the other schools would charge Sudbury between $12,000 and $14,000 per pupil each year.
Beyond that, Coombs said that the school functions as a center of the community not just for the students, but for their parents and general community members as well.
“I know our kids would be very sad not to have us here,” she said.
And the closure of the school would likely be a permanent one, which could have more lasting repercussions on the town.
“Normally, when a school closes, it’s gone,” she said. “In a small community like Sudbury, there’s no enticement to people coming in.”
Sudbury and Whiting considered merging their schools in 2006 but Whiting voters rejected it. In 2008, Sudbury voters scuttled discussion around merging their school with those in Leicester and Whiting.
Coombs said the current economic times are driving a desire to save taxpayers money, but that closing the school was not a good way to do it.
“It’s a hardship, but everybody’s having to deal with it,” she said. “We all have to pay taxes.
Ultimately, she hopes the voting process will raise a greater awareness of the aspects of having a school that community members can celebrate.
“We’re taking it on as a positive thing,” she said.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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