Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: SOS petition on school closures is shortsighted

I believe some clarification is in order to anyone that signed, or is considering voting in favor of, the petition made by Save Our Schools to the Addison Central School District regarding school board composition and school consolidation procedures. It bears noting at the outset that every town in the district already agreed to its existing terms when unification was voted in the first place, so this petition constitutes an ex post facto renegotiation.
Both parts of the petition are problematic, but the part that I’d like to discuss is the proposal that it should only be possible to close a school provided that its town consents by town vote. This is shortsighted, and I fear that some petition signers did not understand what its end effects would be if it were to be voted in.
The ACSD school board is charged with managing the district’s schools as best possible, using the best information available and working under the fiscal constraints that exist. We elected them and should trust them to do just this. If the board deems it necessary to consolidate schools — and this is not a decision I believe that they would take lightly — it will be because it is deemed necessary in order to ensure the best education possible for all of the students in our district.
The only change that the proposal would make, if voted in, would happen in the case where (a) the ACSD Board deems a school closure necessary but (b) the town does not wish the closure to occur. The principal reason for the board to come to the serious decision to close a school is that without the closure, the district budget cannot support the staff and programming that the district’s elementary schools, middle school, and high school need. Thus, not closing the school means a shortfall in the budget, which means cuts in staffing, programming, etc. According to the petition, these cuts can be forced on the entire district by the residents of just one town. The cuts necessitated must come from somewhere, so let’s consider the only possible outcomes in this situation:
1. Cuts are made just at the school that was not closed, as it was their town’s choice not to close it. This would be punitive and not fair to the town’s students, who lose, and I don’t believe that anyone would be happy with this outcome.
2. Cuts are spread across the district. Now, all students lose — even those at the middle and high schools, which all towns in the district share; I don’t believe that anyone would be happy with this outcome, either.
If the proposal on town-voting for school closure is voted in, and its changes are ever applied, then one of the two above cases are what will happen, and in either case, and students lose. I believe that if you have, had, or will have children in ACSD schools, or if you just care about the education of our district’s children, then the only conscionable vote on this proposal — if it comes to a vote — is no.
Frank Swenton
Middlebury

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