Letter to the editor: Ripton’s school offers unique experience, character

My name is Jaime Cammack and I am a minority. Not in a racial sense, but rather in light of a state that is shrinking my young family — seven of us in total — just moved to Vermont. As neither my husband or I were native to our prior state and only beholden to that location because of jobs, we spent most of our personal time searching the nation for a place where we could raise our growing family with confidence. We found that place in Ripton and we are proud to call this small town our home. It was the mixture of geographic isolation, town emphasis on education and interpersonal compassion between neighbors in this gem of a town that drew our initial attention and ultimately won our revenue.
It is therefore very disturbing to me as a mother and as a new resident to learn that a cornerstone of our town community is in peril with the ominous threat of school closures coming from the ACSD. We didn’t move to Addison County because of the potential for financial-savings through school consolidation, we moved to Ripton because of the experience my children receive in growing up in a town where — quite literally — they must walk to school up hill both ways.
There is no substitute for the grit, the character, the Americana they receive in attending our small town school and there will be nothing comparable or equitable to that experience should they be forced to go down the mountain for their primary years of education.
I know I am not alone in my concerns, nor in our family’s choice to move to Ripton. I am aware of several families with multiple small children like mine who have come from out of state for this community specifically who would not have done so if there were not an elementary school in Ripton. By threatening to close our school, you turn off a source of growth for our county and our state by removing the highly seductive incentive of small-town culture for the sake of pennies. Doesn’t Vermont want to turn the population trend in the opposite direction? Doesn’t ACSD want more students in seats?
At the end of the day, my husband and I are in Vermont solely because of our love for this town. Middlebury is not Ripton just as Ripton is not Middlebury. I want all of my children educated here in this place we chose and we will continue to do so either at the Ripton School as we intended when we left Virginia or we will opt to do so at home. The consolidation efforts for the elementary school aged children will not include my children and I urge the district, the county and the state to strongly consider the impact of their choices upon future families who are not looking for just any place to which they can move.
Ripton is not just anywhere. It is exactly where and what it should be.
Elementary school and all.
Jamie Cammack

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