Letter to the editor: Become informed about ANWSD/MAUSD proposal
As some in the community may know, a bus to the Vergennes Elementary and Vergennes High School ran an hour late in both the morning and the afternoon during the week of Oct. 10. This was due to a severe bus driver shortage. This nation-wide bus driver shortage has been ongoing for years, and yet the ANWSD/MAUSD merger would require many more buses to transport students across towns.
Currently, there are 29 buses serving both VUHS and MAUHS. According to the merger study committee, at least 10 more buses would be necessary to carry students to school, and this model would still have 15 routes with ride times of over an hour. Even with up to 16 additional buses, there are still four routes expected to have ride times approaching 90 minutes. This is not including the plan to shuttle students between the two buildings, which is a 20-minute drive.
The bus company that serves the county, BETCHA Transit, has said that finding such a large quantity of bus drivers for additional buses will be incredibly difficult. Contracts for bus driver salaries would have to increase significantly. Furthermore, if students need to wake up earlier to ride the bus, their academics may suffer, especially if they participate in extracurricular activities that require them to get home later in the evening.
One thing that is likely to be improved for students if the merger goes through is extracurriculars such as sports, theatre programs, and various clubs. However, it should be taken into consideration that some students may be unable to participate in these activities if they take place farther from their home. Many athletes walk to and from practice in Vergennes, and may not have a means of getting to practice if it is held at the Mt. Abraham Union High School. Currently, there is no bus later in the afternoon/evening to take athletes home from practice at Vergennes Union High School. Such a thing could be implemented as a solution, which would help increase equity in sports, especially if the merger occurs, but even if the school districts remain separate, it is my opinion that this would be a good thing to consider for students who live farther from school.
No matter your current opinion on the ANWSD/MAUSD, I recommend you visit the ANWSD/MAUSD merger study committee’s website at anwsd.org/anwsd-mausd-merger-study-committee.php before you vote on Nov. 8. There is plenty of valuable information available on this site, including information about expected job cuts, the repairs underway at MAUHS, and how forming a union does not necessarily directly result in cost efficiencies and lower tax rate increases. Finally, I urge you to vote. The futures of our community’s children depend on it.
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