Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Departure from ACSD difficult but necessary choice

There are many things that trouble me about the ACSD consolidation plans. Recent coverage in the Addison Independent addresses many of the issues that concern me as a resident of Weybridge and a member of the ACSD community.
By contrast with the ACSD process, when the Mount Abraham School District plan was announced last week, I realized that it is possible for a district to think outside the box. They began with the premise that they would not close any of the elementary schools. Then, they worked on a plan to repurpose each school building in a creative way so that no elementary school would be closed.
My district, ACSD, never seriously considered how to keep all of our schools open. I know, because I attended many district-wide meetings where consolidation was discussed. First, there was the “Facilities Study,” carried out by an architectural firm, which was supposed to tell us which schools to close. Now, suddenly, that plan is out the window after the “Transportation Study” is telling us that a different set of schools is supposed to close.
What we have not seen so far is a comprehensive look at the costs and benefits to keeping all of our schools open. It is clear that no community in ACSD wants to lose its elementary school. The School Board has not made a convincing case that closing three or more schools will save us money in the long run, or improve the education of our children. Our elementary schools are already offering a great education.
It appears that the main purpose of consolidation is to eliminate elementary school staff positions while increasing class sizes at the remaining elementary schools. Is this what our community really wants? Oversized classes with far fewer teachers per school? Do we really want 69 jobs to be eliminated? Where will those staff members and their families go? As the recent Addison Independent editorial points out, having all of those teachers and staff leave will further hollow out our communities.
What the ACSD School Board members fail to understand is that the petitions asking Weybridge and Ripton to withdraw from the ACSD are a last-ditch effort asking the ACSD Board to take us seriously, work with us, and find a way to keep our schools open. The MAUSD is thinking creatively about opening an early childhood center in one of their schools, and using two schools for special programs for the whole district. Why can’t our School Board come up with similar flexible thinking?
For all of the above reasons, I am planning to vote for Weybridge to withdraw from the ACSD. I don’t take this position lightly, but I hope this vote will allow the ACSD School Board to understand just how seriously we take this issue.
Fran Putnam
Weybridge

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