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CNN turns TV spotlight on Weybridge school

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Posted on November 17, 2011 |
By John Flowers



WEYBRIDGE — Weybridge Elementary School’s ongoing effort to tailor its educational programs to a shrinking student population will be getting some national exposure this winter as part of a CNN television program.

The CNN program, according to Weybridge Elementary Principal Christina Johnston, will touch upon the overcrowding in some schools, contrasted with declining enrollment in others.

On Tuesday, CNN Executive Producer Rose Arce and a film crew spent the entire day at Weybridge Elementary filming classroom activities and conducting interviews with some school personnel and students.

Drawing particular attention, according to Johnston, was the school’s only kindergartner this year, who is part of a K-2 multi-age classroom.

Fifty-two students currently attend the school, and according to official projections enrollment could drop to 38 during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Weybridge is the first of seven Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) towns to conduct a series of public forums that will culminate in proposals on how the local schools should address lower student numbers. Townspeople ultimately could be asked to endorse options ranging from doing nothing to merging their students with another community within ACSU.

Johnston said CNN’s visit went well. She said Arce also spoke with children at a morning assembly about the news gathering process and how to tell a story to an audience.

“The children were very excited,” she said, describing their attitude as, “Whoa, we’re going to be on the national news.”

Johnston acknowledged that the Weybridge segment on the CNN broadcast could be cut down to a few minutes. But she expects that viewers will get a flavor of what the school is like and how it is grappling with student enrollment issues. The Addison Independent will publish the name of the show and its airing date when that information is available.

The CNN crew also filmed footage at a Tuesday evening community meeting on the enrollment issue attended by around 75 local residents. Sixty-one of those people had attended a recent series of community forums related to the declining student numbers.

Weybridge Elementary school board Chairman Eben Punderson said residents agreed on four potential courses of action to deal with declining enrollment. They include:

•  Exploring ways to make Weybridge more affordable for young families, thereby expanding the town’s population and student base.

•  Considering ways the school could share resources with neighboring community schools. This is a course that could lead to joint governance with other school(s) or even a combined school district. Area voters would get the final say on such a scenario.

•  Evaluating additional uses for the local school building to make it more financially self-sustaining and useful to the broader community.

•  Advocating for change at the state level in the way local schools can be funded and operated.

Local citizens and town boards will be working together on these four potential action areas. Punderson said an update on those possibilities will be delivered to residents at the annual town meeting next March.

Weybridge will also work in concert with a recently formed ACSU Study Committee that has been considering governance consolidation and other ideas to better deliver education to area children amid declining enrollment in the district.

Punderson is excited about Weybridge’s progress in studying the issue.

“The level of participation has been great,” Punderson said. “I think it’s been going really well.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com

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