ACSD withdrawal approved in Ripton but not in Weybridge

RIPTON RESIDENT ANZA Armstrong was accompanied to the polls on Tuesday by her dog, Bailey. She and scores of other Ripton residents were asked if their town should withdraw from the Addison Central School District. The referendum passed, 163-107. Now residents in the six other ACSD communities will decide whether to affirm Ripton’s vote.

RIPTON — Ripton residents on Tuesday voted, 163-107, in favor of withdrawing from the Addison Central School District, while Weybridge residents opted against doing so by a 190-119 margin.
The six other ACSD member towns must now vote in favor of Ripton’s bid to leave the district if the proposed exodus is to proceed to the Vermont Board of Education. The state board would then decide whether the town could become its own independent school district.
Both the Ripton and Weybridge votes were triggered by citizens’ petitions seeking to prevent closure of their elementary schools. The ACSD board is expected to vote on a school consolidation plan that would reduce the district’s complement of elementary schools from the current seven, to four.
As it stands, the Ripton, Weybridge and Bridport schools are on the chopping block as the ACSD looks to reduce expenses and streamline operations in the midst of declining enrollment and the resulting loss of state funding for district education.
Ripton resident Erin Robinson was pleased with the vote results.
“Throughout this whole process I felt that folks on both sides of the fence were respectful, thoughtful and engaged in a productive manner,” she told the Independent on Wednesday.
“We’re all neighbors, friends, coworkers each fighting for what we believe is right in a truly democratic way. You can’t ask for anything better. I personally am feeling overjoyed and ignited with new energy for the work ahead of us. And I want to assure people that the work will continue to be done cooperatively, thoughtfully and respectfully as it has up until this point. We’re team players and continue to encourage collaboration from Ripton residents as we move forward, carving a new path. This is just the beginning, but it’s a beautiful one.”
The ACSD board has voiced concern about the proposed divorce, stating the district is stronger with all seven towns in the fold. District officials warned of the potential financial, logistical and educational implications of withdrawing from the district in an FAQ column posted at
Ripton would suddenly be in charge of K-12 public education for its children, operating its own elementary school, while tuitioning its older students to a nearby secondary school system. Ripton would be in charge of sorting out busing, special education services and other responsibilities that go with operating a school district.
But a majority of Ripton residents appear to want the challenge — providing all the dominos fall for a departure from the ACSD.
According to state statute, Ripton Town Clerk Alison Joseph Dickinson must certify the vote results and send them to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, which in turn alerts the six district towns — Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge — they’ll need to hold votes on whether to ratify Ripton’s withdrawal bid.
The towns must vote on the Ripton question the same day, during the same hours. State law imposes no timeframe during which the upcoming vote needs to occur. Town Meeting Day (March 2) — which would appear to be a convenient time for the vote — is less than two months away.
Mary Cullinane, chair of the ACSD board, offered the Independent the following comment about Tuesday’s Ripton vote result:
“I believe the outcome of Tuesday’s votes represents the ongoing need for us, as a community, to work together as we plan for our future,” said Cullinane, who stressed she was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the board. “We are trying to solve complex problems and there is more work that needs to be done. My hope is that we continue to listen, understand and consider the challenges faced by all community members as we move forward.”
Meanwhile, those who initiated Weybridge’s withdrawal referendum are disappointed with — but resigned to — Tuesday’s result.
“Now that we know how our town feels, families who will be impacted by the closure of Weybridge Elementary School can start advocating to the board what is best for their kids,” reads a post-vote message to the community from residents Jenny Phelps and Kelly Flynn.
“In addition, community members can start brainstorming ways that the Weybridge Elementary School building could be used in the future to better serve our community. We have already heard from so many enthusiastic, creative and passionate neighbors who are eager to participate in those discussions.”
Phelps added the following statement: “Our goal was simply to give our neighbors a voice in this decision. Kelly and I are comfortable with the decision that has been made and do not plan to pursue any alternate paths to prevent the future closure of WES. To our knowledge, we are unaware of any others in our town who are considering legal action or other options as well.”
Voter turnout on Tuesday was 65% of registered voters in Ripton, while 40% of the 767 residents on Weybridge’s checklist went to the polls.
John Flowers is at [email protected].

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