Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Rural schools are important for ACSD curriculum

This letter was written to the ACSD Board and Superintendent Burrows and shared with the Addison Independent.
It’s the end of September, and, for me, that means my four-year-old has just completed her first month of school in the Ripton Pre-K classroom. The transition for our family had its ups and downs, and I imagine that is not unique to us. The morning scramble to pack-up, make lunch, and eat breakfast is a little rusty and we are lucky to make it to school before the bell rings to let kids in from morning recess. The pulling of the rope in the bell tower (a special job for an excited kid) seems like an old-fashioned way to announce the beginning of the school day, and it might sound akin to the times of the one-room school houses that dotted the rural Vermont landscape not too long ago.
But sitting next to the bell, on both sides of the steeple, are solar panels that not only generate a surplus of electricity for the building but also were the focus of a school-wide study of renewable energy. This duality represents what could be the perfect and often sought-after balance of action in a quality 21-century global education with the crucial roots and safety of home.
As we celebrate our advances in becoming one of a handful of IB World District Pre-K-12 districts in the nation, I wonder if we could do a better job upholding the pillars of the IB curriculum — something we use to help us stand out among the other districts. International Baccalaureate, as the name suggests, aims to foster intercultural understanding with empathy and respect. IB says that to achieve this, we have to first reflect on our own perspectives, cultures, and identities. Keeping the PYP (Primary Years Program) close to home is an important step in the arch of the IB continuum. How can we help with the quality of that goal? I also wonder if we are not having an important conversation at the MYP (Middle Years Program) level: appreciation of different values and experiences and recognizing that coming together, from our varied elementary experiences, promotes learning and expands small (but deep) worlds.
We should be thinking critically about the uniqueness of our small rural elementary schools so that we can have continued success at the middle and high school level. We, as a district, have organic diversity that cannot be duplicated in a consolidated homogenized elementary school. Supporting the sustainability and quality of all of our schools should be the ASCD Board’s focus, and I wonder if this is getting overshadowed by the temptation of unfounded savings, new buildings, and state-of-the-art facilities.
We have chosen to adopt the IB curriculum for our students. Rather than ignore its mission: “Encourage students … to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right,” (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2005-2019) let’s do the hard work to keep it viable and applicable to our community
 
Joanna Doria
Ripton

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