Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Lease arrangement could help avert school closings

The following letter to the selectboards of Addison and Ferrisburgh was also sent to the Addison Independent for publication.
In reference to the ANWSD’s proposal to close your towns’ elementary school buildings, I see a third option from closure or tax increase. The district board views the maintenance of buildings remote from Vergennes as risking severe cuts to high school programs vs. tax increases that they perceive as probable rejection by taxpayers. It’s unfortunate that the district board and administration are fearful of loss of high school programs to the extent that they are willing to reduce the value of small school elementary programs. I feel for their no-win choices, as do many letter writers in the Addy Indy. I hope the board has read the letters from parents in Ferrisburgh and Ripton. Parents and taxpayers should not be adversaries, rather efficiency and effectiveness can be balanced by community conversation.
When families find themselves facing financial stress, choices for tightening the belt abound; sell a car, drop out of college, take a second job, and maybe move out of the house into a rented apartment. In the case of falling enrollment affecting both elementary and high school costs per pupil, this insidious measurement makes what should be good news for a level budget into a state aid penalty. Much as if one bread winner lost his job. So, what’s a family to do?
I ask the selectboards of both towns to petition the district board to return ownership of the two elementary schools to the towns in exchange for agreeing to negotiate a lease of the buildings to the district. The negotiation process itself should be open enough for taxpayers and parents to understand their rights and responsibilities, and to assure them that local elementary education and community cohesion will be maintained. A lease should give a five-year plan updated yearly to eliminate the kind of panic I see in today’s newspaper.
There is plenty of time between now and town meeting day to save both schools from oblivion. We may thank the day we took the step protecting future use of a valuable community asset.
David Spencer
Addison Central School
Class of 1955
New Haven

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