ANWSD sets school closure meetings

VERGENNES — The Addison Northwest School District board has scheduled three informational meetings on potential school closures and district restructuring for the 2020-2021 school year. Two of those meetings will be held this week.

The ANWSD board plans to vote on whether to call a closure vote for one or both of Addison and Ferrisburgh central schools at a meeting scheduled for Friday, Sept. 27, at Vergennes Union High School at 6 p.m.

If the board adopts a closure plan, a town-wide vote in Addison or Ferrisburgh or both would be held this fall. According to the ANWSD Articles of Unification the board cannot close a school without town residents’ approval before January 2021.

Before Friday’s meeting the board’s Community Engagement Committee will hold informational meetings on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Addison Central School and on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Ferrisburgh Central School.

The third informational meeting will be held at Vergennes Union Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

The board has been leaning toward a plan that would close both the Addison and Ferrisburgh elementary schools after this school year, educate pre-K through fourth-graders at VUES, and create a new 5-8 middle school at VUHS.

Board members said the plan would improve education and educational equity and save roughly $2.2 million in the first year, allowing the district to preserve all programs at all levels and avoid a tax increase that would be unacceptable to ANWSD taxpayers.

Without the changes programs would be gutted, they said, particularly at the high school. 

At a Sept. 9 meeting attended by roughly 200 ANWSD residents, many pushed back against the plan, saying the board had not allowed enough time for community feedback. Some favored a proposal that would leave the Ferrisburgh school open for younger students and close only Addison’s school.

At this week’s meetings ANWSD officials said they will present the pros and cons of all five different scenarios they considered, the district’s financial realities and demographics, and, according to a press release, “what will be at stake if we choose to continue operating all four buildings in the current grade configurations.” 

Board members and administrators will accept audience “ideas, questions, and concerns” after that presentation, according to the press release.

In a recent conversation with the Independent, ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule addressed one concern raised at the Sept. 9 forum and in a petition being passed in Ferrisburgh, that the central office budget has increased dramatically since consolidation.

Soule said many expenses formerly accounted for in individual schools’ budgets have been placed in the central office budget. As examples, she said VUHS no longer has a maintenance head or an athletic director, but ANWSD has a maintenance head and an activities director paid through the central office.

As for the timing of the Sept. 27 vote, the press release stated the board had to vote on a “final scenario” by then in order to hold a possible town closure votes this fall, the timing of which would allow the board to create a budget in time for Town Meeting Day next March, as well as plan for other potential changes.

“The scheduling of this is due to the timeline of the board’s cost planning, proposed scenarios, enrollment resources, and middle school information,” the press release stated.  

More information about the ANWSD reconfiguration is available online at anwsd.org at the quicklink: “School Reconfiguration Resources.”

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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