Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Big vote looms in Starksboro

Starksboro, please vote yes on May 10 to save Robinson Elementary School.

As many of you know, Robinson School is under the threat of closure. First it was a school repurposing scheme by the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) superintendent and now a merger with Vergennes that will remove our right to vote on the closing of Robinson.

Here are some reasons why we should not allow them to close Robinson.

Robinson School has an extraordinary principal, teachers and support staff including facilities and kitchen staff. Thanks to these very dedicated people, all children develop new skills and find peace, hope, caring adults, food, stability, possibility and love inside its walls.

In addition, community members’ involvement in the school through programs like Four Winds, sports and mentoring programs are invaluable to the development of students and give them a strong sense of community. Here is an example: One of Rob Liotard’s mentees showed interest in becoming a volunteer fireman. Rob would transport the youngster to and from meetings and drills and the young man became a junior fireman, completed training and when old enough became a Starksboro Volunteer Fireman. And guess what, the young man’s father joined the department, too! It doesn’t get much better than that. The success of the mentoring program can’t be measured or duplicated, especially if our kids are shipped off to some other facility in some other town. The same applies to all of our other programs.

And speaking of community service, three of our five selectboard members are graduates of Robinson School as well as 20 members of our First Response and Volunteer Fire Department. Many others are mentors and  community volunteers. By any of these measures, Robinson School is doing very well for our children, meeting their needs and helping them to become healthy, caring citizens.

Robinson students have attended and graduated from UVM, Brown, Harvard, Dartmouth, Williams, Brandeis, Skidmore, Olin and RPI, to name a few. Clearly our children received the preparation they needed to be competitive with students across the country.

While Robinson School is important to Starksboro’s children, it is also important to the town in so many ways. Parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends and neighbors are able to share the accomplishments of students at school plays, musicals, recitals, awards ceremonies academic competitions and graduations to name a few. Families who are new in town have the opportunity to meet their neighbors as they come together for school events. Sporting events are very well attended as well. These activities enable people to interact with one another to build a more cohesive community. I fear these essential experiences for our community as a whole will cease to exist if Robinson School is closed and our children become very small fish in a very large pond located in some other part of the county.

Much of the work of the Starksboro Planning Commission, of which I am a member, is centered around Robinson School. Some plans currently in the works include elderly housing in close proximity to the school, which will promote learning from each other, a recreation park to be shared by the school and community and compact development within walking distance of the school and park. The loss of our school would be a huge detriment to attracting new families and small businesses, which our town so desperately needs. It is unlikely that couples with children will chose Starksboro as a home without a local elementary school. Some families plan to move if Robinson is forced to close.

In short, as folks at a 5-town forum put it: “Our local community schools are the glue that holds our communities together.” Robinson is an outstanding school, a vital part of our community and well worth the fight to save it. The Starksboro SOS Committee believes the only sure way to save Robinson is to withdraw from MAUSD.

You can find answers to frequently asked questions by visiting our website: www.starksborosaveourschool.org. Also there will be an informational meeting on Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. at Robinson School Multipurpose Room.

On Tuesday, May 10, the town of Starksboro will hold a Special Town Meeting at 7 p.m. at the Robinson School Multipurpose Room. There will be a question and answer period prior to a floor vote on the withdrawal of Robinson School from MAUSD.

Please join your neighbors and friends on Tuesday, May 10, 7 p.m. at Robinson School and vote yes to withdraw from MAUSD.

Dennis Casey

Starksboro

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