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ACSD puts off school closures decision

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District board on Monday unanimously agreed to take another pause in its deliberations toward a facilities master plan that’s expected to recommend, among other things, the closure of up to three of the ACSD’s seven elementary schools.
Plans now call for the board to revisit the facilities master planning process this August or September. The board had been poised to review the plan this spring en route to voting on school closures at the end of this academic year.
James “Chip” Malcolm, a Middlebury representative to the ACSD board, said he and his colleagues chose to defer action on the plan because of the many other, weighty issues the district is — and will be — confronting during the coming months. Those issues include:
•  Continuing to educate preK-12 students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACSD serves children in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. Gov. Phil Scott recently urged the state’s school districts to transition to full on-campus learning by April. As it stands, all elementary schools are open five days a week, but secondary schools are offering a hybrid learning model that includes online instruction.
•  Hiring a new Middlebury Union Middle School (MUMS) principal. Kristen Holsman Francoeur recently tendered her resignation.
•  Preparing MUMS to welcome all district 6th-graders by this fall. The school currently serves grades 7-8.
•  Hiring a new business manager.
•  Dealing with the results of an as-yet unscheduled vote on Ripton’s bid to withdraw from the ACSD, in order to preserve its elementary school. A majority of Ripton residents have already voted in favor of withdrawing, as a way to preserve their elementary school. Now it’s up to residents of the other six ACSD communities to decide whether to endorse that move.
•  Proceeding with the district’s transition to an International Baccalaureate curriculum.
“It seemed a little overwhelming (to continue work on the facilities master plan) with everything else that’s going on,” Malcolm said on Tuesday.
“You can only do so much at once.”
This is the most recent of several “pauses” in a facilities master planning process that has been around two years in the making. The ACSD board had been slated to vote in school closures on Feb. 23.
The prospect of school closures has created a groundswell of opposition from some district residents — particularly in Weybridge and Ripton, whose local schools are currently on the chopping block (along with Bridport’s).
John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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