Lincoln schedules vote on proposal to leave MAUSD

LINCOLN — Another Addison County town will vote on whether to stay in its school district or leave.

On Tuesday night, in response to a community petition, the Lincoln selectboard scheduled a town-wide vote for Aug. 24 to decide a single question: “Shall the Town of Lincoln withdraw from the Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD)?”

“I feel really saddened to be at the place we’re at,” said Lincoln resident Mike Fisher, who attended the meeting in person. “I really did not want to come to a place where we had to consider accepting a vote to withdraw from the district ... But I also think (holding a vote) is the right thing to do. I really feel like we’re forced to consider this action.”

The MAUSD operates elementary schools in Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro, along with Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School in Bristol.

Last December, in an effort to address declining enrollment and rising costs, MAUSD Superintendent Patrick Reen unveiled a plan that would discontinue elementary education in Lincoln, New Haven and Starksboro, consolidate the district’s K-6 students in Bristol and Monkton, and, in a later phase, merge MAUSD with the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD), which serves the communities of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.

Many Lincoln residents have opposed Reen’s plan on the grounds that it violates the district’s articles of agreement, which stipulate that no MAUSD school may be closed without voter permission in the town hosting that school.

In recent weeks, some Lincoln residents have raised concerns about the newly formed ANWSD/MAUSD Merger Study Committee, which they say has the authority to write new articles of agreement, stripping Lincoln and other MAUSD towns of their voting rights.

The petition that prompted Tuesday night’s selectboard meeting was submitted by “Save Community Schools,” a group of residents “committed to ensuring that future generations of Lincoln students will also grow and benefit from being educated in their hometown,” according to a July 12 press release. “Despite all our efforts to work within the district to retain the core value of excellent community schools and from all that we now understand through this process, it has become quite clear that if Lincoln does not leave MAUSD, we will lose the right to vote under the existing Articles, and the closure of Lincoln Community School, one way or another, appears to be inevitable.”

Lincoln will be the fourth Addison County town to consider school district withdrawal this year.

The selectboard’s decision Tuesday evening came just minutes after polls closed in Addison, where voters narrowly defeated a bid to withdraw from the ANWSD (see story on Page 1A).

In January, Ripton and Weybridge held votes on leaving the Addison Central School District. Ripton chose to withdraw, a move that was approved by the Vermont State Board of Education in May. Weybridge decided to stay in Addison Central.

“The folks in Ripton have been a valuable resource in sharing their strategies and commitment to achieving their goal of keeping their school in Ripton,” said Save Community Schools member Jim Warnock in an email to the Independent Tuesday night.

The Lincoln selectboard will host informational meetings on Aug. 10, 19 and 23 before the polls open on Aug. 24.

Voting will be by Australian ballot, and all active registered voters in Lincoln will receive a ballot by mail.

Lincoln’s website, lincolnvermont.org, is expected to be out of service for the next few days, but when it’s restored it will include more details about the informational meetings and voting process.

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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Addison County Independent