Letter to the editor: Students to lose extracurricular options in merger

Whether we’d save money if the merger happens is questionable at best. But there is certainly much we’d lose if it were to pass. I’m thinking about teachers we’d lose when we combine high schools and reduce the staff — teachers who work directly with our kids. I’m thinking about coaches and sports teams we’d lose. How many fewer opportunities will there be for kids to play baseball, soccer, or basketball when we have half the number of teams we have now?

And I’m thinking about the school musicals which were so important in our daughter’s life. Every year we are treated to superlative musicals, one at Mt. Abe and one at VUHS, each involving a large number of students (100 at Mt. Abe this fall), including all grades from 7 through 12, and produced with a huge amount of community help and support. For many kids, this is the highlight of the year, and what keeps them going. It’s one of the few multi-age activities we have in which older students mentor younger actors and all work together for a shared production. How many fewer kids and community members will get to participate when we have only one musical, and it is farther away? How many kids will lose out because the drives are too long for parents to pick them up from after school activities or play rehearsals?

The digital age gives us the flexibility to offer more classes and programs without merging. Even a shared shuttle van would allow students and teachers to move between the two schools for special classes or sports. I see no need for longer bus rides, remodeling two buildings, changing the governance, and losing teams, teachers, and a musical play.

The Merger Study Committee explored potential tax benefits from merging into a single district compared to continuing as we are. But it did not consider ways we could reduce costs and improve services without merging, such as the recommendations put forward in the Levenson report or suggested by community members. Until we have looked into these possibilities, it is far too early to vote for the much more radical undertaking of merging.

There is a lot to lose when we close a community’s high school and move the kids elsewhere, including in our case, a healthy, competitive rivalry between the Eagles and the Commodores. I believe we can find ways to reduce costs that are far better for our students’ high school experience and for the well-being of our two communities.

I encourage you to vote No on the merger and ask the school board to look at other ways to collaborate, save on taxes, and update programming without closing a high school. For more information visit StoptheMerger.info.

Chris Runcie


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