ACSU towns to discuss school governance on June 13

MIDDLEBURY — Four of the Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) school district’s seven member-towns have completed community-wide discussions about how their respective schools could adapt to the current trend of rising costs and declining student enrollment. All seven communities will reveal their recommendations at a district forum on Friday, June 13.
“We have gotten tremendous feedback on this,” Rick Scott, chairman of the ACSU Study Committee, said of the community forums aimed at helping the district evaluate whether its schools should consider sharing governance, resources, or even merge in the future.
The ACSU Study Committee was formed during the fall of 2010 to meet one of the requirements prescribed by Act 153, a state law that provides incentives for school districts to voluntarily consider mergers.
Act 153 allows individual school communities to consider merging into a Regional Education Districts, or RED, governed by a common board.
The ACSU recently commissioned former Barre superintendent Ray Proulx to study resources, enrollment trends and possible collaborations among schools within the ACSU’s seven elementary schools, middle school and high school. Proulx released a 101-page report, which offers many facts and figures and presents at least four school merger options that ACSU leaders can consider as they confront declining enrollment and increasing costs within the union.
Scott and his 10 colleagues on the study committee asked local officials in the ACSU towns to hold forums discussing not only the concept of a RED, but brainstorm other ways by which their schools could remain vital in the future. The towns of Ripton, Weybridge, Shoreham and Bridport had completed their forums as of press time. Middlebury is scheduled to hold its final forum on Wednesday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. in room 218 of the Middlebury Union Middle School.
The remaining towns of Salisbury and Cornwall were making great progress in anticipation of the June 13 forum at 6:30 p.m. in the Middlebury Union High School cafeteria.
Ripton, one of the smaller schools in the ACSU, capped its public forums on May 8. Resident Chris Lacey was a member of what became know as the “Ripton Organizing Committee” that led the forums.
“I think we had a very productive and respectful process,” Lacey said. “There was good community involvement.”
He estimated 65 people attended Ripton’s kickoff meeting on March 3. A series of working sessions drew 50-55 people, and the final summary meeting was attended by 53 people, according to Lacey.
Participants, Lacey said, came up with a variety of recommendations for strengthening the local elementary school, including:
•  Exploring alternatives to traditional public schools (magnet, charter, private, academy, school choice or hybrid).
•  Looking at ways to increase enrollment or attract new families and students to town.
•  Increasing community participation in the school.
•  Exploring cost containment options as enrollment goes up and down.
•  Considering other uses of the school building, perhaps for multi-generational services, youth coffee house opportunities, child care and/or adult education classes.
Lacey said he did not hear a lot of support from Ripton residents for the idea of participating in a RED.
He was pleased with the amount of feedback received at the forums.
“This was the most involvement we’ve seen in the school since we went through the process 25 years ago of building the new one,” Lacey said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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