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ANWSD eyes middle school expansion

VERGENNES — An internal Addison Northwest School District study has recommended that for the 2021–2022 school year sixth-graders be added into the district’s middle school. 
The study team, which began its work in March with leadership from Vergennes Union Elementary School Principal Matt DeBlois and Ferrisburgh Central School Principal Andy Kepes, made the recommendation in an update given to the ANWSD board before its Monday meeting.
“In the end, the group felt it made the most sense to add a sixth grade in the ’21/’22 school year and as other structures and systems fall into place the fifth grade could be added in future school years if it makes sense,” that update concluded.
The district middle school is now housed at Vergennes Union High School, but could possibly be moved if the district reconfigures its schools.
The study recommends grouping sixth-graders into one team as a group for that year, and then splitting them into “two looping teams” that would learn together as seventh- and eighth-graders. 
According to the update, “The group took into account: developmental needs of students, available academic supports, number of students in each grade, teacher licensing, and the potential mixing of students across these grade ranges.”
As discussed earlier this winter, reported in the Independent, and outlined in a recent letter to the Independent from the ANWSD board, board members are studying four scenarios for the district structure for the 2021–2022 school year:
•  Maintaining the 2020–2021 school year structure in which all four ANWSD buildings would be used for educational purposes. Addison Central School would remain an alternative education hub in this proposal. 
• Relying on a “three-building model in which grades PreK–2, 3–5 and 6–12 will be consolidated into separate buildings.” 
• Consolidating PreK–4 and 5–12 into two buildings.
• Maintaining two buildings, one for PreK through grades 4 or 5 and one for grades 5 or 6 through 8, with high school students tuitioned to other districts.
There was little discussion at Monday’s board meeting on the proposal, which the board will take up more seriously at its next meeting, an August board retreat. But Chairman John Stroup characterized the middle-school study to this point. 
“There is a lot of thinking that went into what is a tentative recommendation,” Stroup said. 
The ANWSD board has planned a series of public meetings and surveys this fall to go over and seek residents’ feedback on the questions of the district’s finances and options for the future, including its middle school configuration and location. 
“We have decided as a board to have a much more robust discussion about middle-level education in this district,” Stroup said.

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