Ripton wins independence from school district

RIPTON — The Vermont State Board of Education (SBE) on Wednesday approved, by an 8-0 vote, Ripton’s request to withdraw from the Addison Central School District.

The panel, by an identical vote, also agreed to the Addison Central School District’s request that it remain a school district and not revert to a supervisory union in wake of Ripton’s departure.

The SBE’s decision means Ripton can move forward with re-forming a local school board to take on much of the heavy lifting that will be required for the community to become an independent district, serving its younger kids at Ripton Elementary School while tuitioning its older students to Middlebury Union middle and high schools, among other options.

Ripton is currently looking to affiliate with the White River Valley Supervisory Union, based in Royalton, to receive central office, special education and other ancillary services.

The SBE rendered its Ripton verdict after its second hearing on the withdrawal proposal on Wednesday.

The verdict came just as the Independent was going to press; this newspaper will have a more detailed account of the verdict and Ripton’s path forward in a follow-up article on May 27.

Ripton’s quest for independence was driven by a grassroots effort to prevent closure of Ripton Elementary. It’s one of three schools that are currently under study for closure as part of an ACSD consolidation plan to address declining enrollment and growing facilities maintenance costs.

John Carroll, chairman of the SBE, told the Independent back in April that Ripton was very likely to be granted independence by virtue of state statutes and the hurdles the community had already crossed. A majority of residents in Ripton and the other ACSD-member towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge had already endorsed Ripton’s independence effort at the polls. It was then up to the SBE to determine whether Ripton students “will attend a school that is in compliance with the rules adopted by the State Board pertaining to educational programs,” according to state statutes.

Still, the SBE wanted more details on whether Ripton would be able to afford what will likely be a boost in education expenses, whether it could maintain its teaching staff, and whether it has state-approved education options for its children should its local school prove unsustainable.

Ripton officials apparently answered those and other questions to the SBE’s satisfaction on Wednesday.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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Addison County Independent