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ACSD seeks input on buildings’ future

MIDDLEBURY — An Addison Central School District board subcommittee wants to hear how local residents would like to prioritize the use of and repairs to the ACSD’s school buildings and other physical assets into the next decade and beyond.
It’s all part of officials’ efforts to create a facilities master plan to better manage the ACSD’s 12 buildings according to the district’s educational priorities as student enrollment continues to decline statewide.
The ACSD includes the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge; Middlebury Union Middle and High schools; and the alternative education and ACSD central office buildings in Middlebury.
An audit last year concluded district buildings could need a combined total of up to $31 million in upgrades and repairs within the next five years. That potential price tag — along with new state law directing school districts to more effectively use their assets — prompted local leaders to take a close look at how the ACSD can get the most out of its infrastructure.
Organizers stressed that potentially closing or consolidating schools is not part of this current master planning effort. Act 46 — the state’s education governance consolidation law through which the ACSD last year transitioned to a single governing board and a global budget — lays out a separate and highly regulated process for closing schools.
“This process may very well lead to configurations that are different than today, but that will be with an emphasis on making our system better for kids and taxpayers,” ACSD Board Chairman Peter Conlon said. “The two can go hand in hand.”
ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows and his colleagues recently summarized the district’s facilities master planning effort in an informational flyer that can be found on-line at tinyurl.com/yadj8o89.
Burrows said this current master planning process will be the ACSD board’s “biggest work” this academic year.
“The endgame is instead of operating on a year-by-year basis with decision making, that we begin to think in longer terms and consider how our vision for our students aligns with our budgeting, our facilities infrastructure and the board’s overall direction for the district,” Burrows said.
District officials want ACSD residents to tackle three questions through this winter:
“How do we ensure equitable distribution of resources across the district? How do we provide the best learning environment for all of our students with our current fiscal and enrollment conditions? And how do we maintain reasonable property tax rates for our citizens?”
A seven-member ACSD Planning & Engagement Committee has formed to help residents answer those queries. To that end, the committee will hold public feedback sessions on at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Middlebury Union High School; at  6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Middlebury Union Middle School; and at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, also at MUMS.
The committee includes ACSD board members Jennifer Nuceder, Suzanne Buck, Mary Cullinane, Davina Desmarais, and Jori Jacobeit, as well as Burrows and Caitlin Steele, the district’s director of teaching and learning.
The mission behind the Planning & Engagement Committee’s planning process is to guide the school board as it makes short- and long-range decisions on ACSD facilities. Decision-making goals, according to Burrows, will include:
• Investing in and maintaining facilities that support the district’s educational programs and goals.
• Achieving optimum class sizes at each grade level over time.
• Providing all students with equal access to educational and extracurricular services and resources.
• Striving for a more equitable distribution of non-classroom resources across the district.
• Achieving uniformity in care and maintenance of all district facilities.
The committee will relay the public input it receives to the ACSD board, which will review the feedback along with data to draft new ideas on facilities management. The committee will then present those ideas to the public at a new round of public meetings next spring.
Burrows said residents shouldn’t assume the upcoming process will be about reducing the ACSD’s physical footprint.
“I think there’s a predilection for people to take a ‘deficit mindset’ and think about ‘What are we going to lose?’” Burrows said. “I think the hope for the board is looking at ‘What we can do together?’”
The goal is for the ACSD board to adopt a facilities master plan by next summer.
Conlon wants area residents attend the upcoming meetings in big numbers.
“Our hope is that people will be excited by and help design what lies ahead, look at change as a good thing for all kids, and not just stay anchored to a system that is being affected by many changes,” he said. The school system belongs to all of us, so the more participation, the better.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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