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MAUSD mulling options for facilities

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Unified School District board has a full summer’s worth of work ahead of it.

The school board has received five community-authored proposals for solving the district’s facilities and financial challenges, and hired education consultant Nate Levenson to evaluate those proposals alongside the long-range facilities plan unveiled last December by Superintendent Patrick Reen.

On Tuesday night the MAUSD board narrowly approved, 5-4, Levenson’s proposal for “a multistep process … designed to vet and evaluate a number of alternative proposals for addressing declining enrollment.”

Those proposals were solicited and submitted after several months of intense discussion around Reen’s plan, which in a recent paid column in the Independent the MAUSD described thus:

“At the School Board’s request, Superintendent Patrick Reen offered a proposal on Dec. 7, 2020, that would address our financial challenges in a two-phased approach. In Phase One, all students from three of the elementary schools (Lincoln, Starksboro and New Haven) would move to two (Bristol and Monkton) and new learning spaces would be created in the vacated schools. Phase Two would include a possible merger with the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD).”

The school board had intended to vote on Reen’s plan in January but subsequently delayed making a decision until August. Recent school board meetings have featured discussion about delaying a vote until the end of the year, but no formal action has been taken in that regard.

PROPOSALS

Five community entities submitted proposals by the recent deadline:

•  Brenda Tillberg of Bristol.

•  Herb Olsen and Nancy Cornell of Starksboro.

•  Renee McGuinness of Monkton.

•  Coco Moseley and Brian Bates of Lincoln.

•  MAUSD Reimagined, a team that includes Bristol resident Erin Jipner; Lincoln residents Jim Warnock, Bill Jesdale, Su White, Sarah McClain, Andrew Furtch, Mary and John Gemignani, Tristan Mayshark, Sadie Brightman, Erin Warnock, Christie Sumner, Abby Reynolds, Jeanne Albert, and Nathan Richardson; Starksboro residents Nancy Cornell, Erin Buckwalter, Michael Shepard, and Herb Olson; and Ferrisburgh resident (and Lincoln Community School teacher) Devin Schrock.

The proposals can be found on the MAUSD website at tinyurl.com/y5ad8vp7, and the Independent will provide an overview of each one in future stories.

NEW SOLUTIONS

The Independent covered Nate Levenson’s first visit with the MAUSD board in an April 22 story.

Levenson was a senior adviser at educational consultants District Management Group until the end of last year and is now doing business as New Solutions K12. He and research associate Karla Baerh will be undertaking the work outlined in his proposal for the MAUSD.

New Solutions will not make final recommendations about which proposals are “best” but “will provide a clear and easy-to-compare analysis of the proposals with objective data to help the board thoughtfully choose a course of action,” while also sharing lessons learned and offering suggestions for enhancing the proposals, according to the proposal.

Emphasis will be placed on stakeholder engagement, which will be achieved by, among other things, forming a Community Input Committee to help set evaluation criteria and keeping communication open between the community and the school board.

The process will involve 12 steps, according to the proposal:

1. Communicating the approach to the community.

2. Proposal reviewers meeting with proposal sponsors.

3. Helping Reen update his Dec. 7 proposal.

4. Creating a standardized presentation of all options.

5. Forming a Community Input Committee.

6. Developing a draft list of five to eight evaluation criteria.

7. Gathering feedback on the evaluation criteria from the school board, principals and Community Input Committee.

8. Evaluating all of the proposals based on agreed-upon criteria.

9. Determining the financial impact of each proposal.

10. Producing a draft report.

11. Sharing draft findings for feedback.

12. Finalizing the report.

The district has agreed to pay $95,000 for these services.

Meanwhile Reen reported at Tuesday night’s meeting that the district is hoping several facilities projects might move forward in the district, though they’re dependent on the availability of contractors. Projects include new bathrooms and front entrance at the high school and a reconfiguration of Beeman Elementary School in New Haven, which in Reen’s long-range facilities proposal would become both a district early education site and home for the MAUSD central office.

The district recently received a lease extension for its current central office, which is located in the Bristol Works complex.

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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