ACSD seeks feedback on its school buildings

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District officials next month will host a second round of public input meetings as they prepare a long-range plan for how the district should prioritize the use of, and repairs to, its multiple school buildings and other physical assets during the next decade and beyond.
The ACSD board formed a Planning & Engagement Committee early last year to lead its Facilities Master Plan effort. Tentative plans call for a draft master plan to be unveiled to the public late this spring. The ACSD board will then review and revise the document for final approval this summer, according to a schedule featured online at acsdvt.org/domain/897.
The Planning & Engagement Committee, led by ACSD board member Jennifer Nuceder, had planned on hosting a series of “community dialogues” throughout the district this month to get residents’ thoughts on their school buildings and how they should be used in the future. The panel is now trying to schedule those meetings for April.
When they occur, they will represent the second round of input for the master plan, the committee held an initial batch of sessions last fall.
In the meantime, ACSD officials have been reviewing “facilities data, community feedback, and other relevant information” culled from various sources, including the fall input sessions, Nuceder stated through a recent letter to fellow board members.
Nuceder, through an email exchange, said the information under review includes past, current, and projected enrollment figures, an assessment of ACSD facilities conducted by a company called SchoolDude, and equity priorities cited by district leaders.
“(The committee) has identified several key themes that have emerged from its review, and is currently preparing additional questions for the community’s consideration, to be shared and discussed in the next round of Community Dialogue Meetings,” she noted in her letter.
Those themes, according to Nuceder, include
-“the importance of equity for all students,”
-“maintaining high quality education to foster student success,”
-“declining enrollment realities” and
-“the cost of operating and maintaining buildings.”
Completing the facilities master plan is one of the ACSD board’s top goals for this year, and there’s a lot riding on it. It’s been the focus of three lengthy board retreats. Once finished, the plan will inform the board’s future decisions on:
•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.
•Developing and fostering “points of pride” in any new school configurations that emerge.
The process is in part being driven by Vermont’s Act 46, which promoted the consolidation of school governance within Vermont’s supervisory unions. The Addison Central Supervisory Union was the first SU in the county to embrace Act 46. It resulted in the union supplanting its nine district boards with a single ACSD board presiding over one pre-K-12 budget.
While officials have said the facilities master plan shouldn’t be seen as a precursor to school consolidations, the ACSD and the vast majority of other unified districts in Vermont are dealing with an ongoing trend of rising costs and declining enrollment.
The ACSD is bound by its own “articles of agreement” to hold a series of public hearings and votes if a school closure were ever pitched.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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