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Consolidation plans would close Mount Abe

BRISTOL — If the community-authored facilities proposals submitted to the Mount Abraham Unified School District board last month are any indication, the writing is on the wall for the district’s high school in Bristol.

Mount Abraham Union High School currently educates students in grades 9-12 from the district’s five towns of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro. The 52-year-old building had required numerous repairs and renovations in recent years, at a cost of millions of dollars.

Since 2014 the district has three times tried to persuade 5-Town residents to support multimillion-dollar renovation bonds, but the community rejected its overtures.

Now, some residents are calling for the school to be decommissioned altogether.

In all four of the community-authored proposals that outline school attendance at the elementary, middle and high school levels, 9-12 education would be discontinued at Mount Abe. Three scenarios call for tuitioning MAUSD high school students to neighboring districts. A fourth calls for the construction of a centrally located high school to serve all of Addison County. (Proposal A, submitted by Brenda Tillberg of Bristol, focuses on school funding and does not spell out specific plans for school buildings and is not included in the attached chart.) 

As the authors of Proposal E, “MAUSD Reimagined,” put it, the district is “maintaining the high school … at the expense of the small schools.”

The Independent has created a chart to compare basic aspects of each proposal and will report on each proposal individually in future stories. Click on the pdf below to read the chart.

Notably, the four proposals also call for preserving the district’s elementary schools, and none suggests the MAUSD should merge with the neighboring Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD).

A fifth proposal submitted for district consideration takes a higher-level view, focusing on issues of school funding, and does not spell out a plan for specific towns, grades or schools.

The proposals were submitted last month as alternatives to Superintendent Patrick Reen’s December proposal to address declining enrollment and rising costs by discontinuing elementary education in Lincoln, New Haven and Starksboro, and eventually merging MAUSD with ANWSD.

Of course these proposals are by no means reflective of the district as a whole, and it’s likely that Mount Abraham Union High School will have plenty of defenders. But the proposals will certainly provoke lively discussions in the weeks and months ahead as the school board inches toward a final decision on the future of the district’s school buildings.

Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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