Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Ripton school draws praise

My name is Hannah Osborne and I was a student at Ripton Elementary School (R.E.S.) from Kindergarten through 6th grade. As ACSD continues to move toward closing several of its elementary schools, I am compelled to urge the ACSD Board to strongly consider what will be lost with the closing of our small schools. I am saddened to think of the imbalance of values that have led us to believe this would be the best option.
I have temporarily relocated from Vermont to North Carolina to pursue a doctorate in audiology at East Carolina University. This relocation process has given me an opportunity to reflect on my educational journey and the many people and experiences that have so strongly influenced my successes, strong work ethic, social skills, sense of community, determination, and so much more. 
At R.E.S. I was a member of small classes, in which I was able to develop meaningful relationships with my classmates as well as my teachers, who supported their students by giving more individualized attention and emphasizing the importance of patience, respect, belonging, and community. I remember community events hosted by or sponsored by R.E.S. such as the Ripton Ridge Run, Grand-friends Lunch, Community Thanksgiving, making and delivering gift baskets to town-members on the first day of spring, participating in Green-Up Day, helping in the Community Garden, gathering weekly for Family Soccer and more.
The sense of community, civic responsibility, and self-confidence that I developed during my years at R.E.S. undoubtedly have led me to where I am today. I remember going to Town Meeting every year with my parents and my friends from school and everyone in the room always voted unanimously to pass the school budget. I was supported not only by my family, teachers, and other school faculty, but by my entire town.
It is a shame to think of the children who will not get to experience the high-quality education that I did, enriched by community involvement, time spent outside in nature, and learning from their neighbors if the school in their hometown is closed. I believe it is also worth mentioning that I returned to R.E.S. as a long-term substitute para-educator in 2015 and was heartened to see that the core values and community practices from my time as a student were still intact many years later, as I know they are now.
I understand that the issues of declining enrollment in Vermont and the rising cost of education have created problems that school boards and planning committees are working hard to solve statewide. I hope that the ACSD Board and Planning Committee can think creatively and show others around the state that there are other, out-of-the-box solutions to this problem.
Please think about small schools — especially schools that are doing so many things well, like Ripton — as strengths and not liabilities. Also, please think about the effect that closing small rural schools will have on enticing people like me to want to move back to my home state to raise my own family in the future. The problem is not that we have too many schools for the students we are trying to educate. The problem is that we need to make Vermont a place young families want to live.
Hannah Osborne
Greenville, N.C.

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