Editorial: Community Discussions – Pros and cons of school consolidation is next
In the third of our summer series of discussion points, we’ll launch a one-time discussion into Act 46, the bill passed three years ago that mandated a consolidation of school governance with the expectations that school districts facing declining student counts might find ways to contain expenses.
The upshot of that law and process has forced the topic of school consolidation to the forefront. Locally, the Rutland Northeast Supervisory District, representing the greater Leicester-Brandon-Pittsford area that comprises Otter Valley Union High School, has pursued school mergers ahead of the three Addison County school districts representing Middlebury Union High School, Vergennes Union High School and Mount Abe Union High School. In Rutland Northeast, the elementary schools of Whiting, Sudbury and Leicester have merged into two schools of K-3, and 4-6 graders, located in Sudbury and Leicester, with school choice into Brandon’s Neshobe Elementary. None of the schools in the other three school districts have moved to merge or consolidate, though the Addison Central Supervisory Union board has launched preliminary discussions.
Meanwhile, some of the elementary schools in Addison Central Supervisory Union are under 50 students for grades K-6, and the farm population in some towns in western Addison County could see further contraction if family dairy farms continue to consolidate as history as shown over the past 50-plus years.
The questions and topic points we’ll discuss are:
• Current trends of student population and area demographics;
• How many students are too few to make an elementary school viable?
• What communities who don’t want to lose those community schools might do to prevent that outcome (combine with adult education, senior centers and other needed community services.)
The discussion will be focused on the pros and cons of consolidating elementary schools that might be considered too small.
If you’re interested in joining the conversation, we’ll reserve the meeting room at Ilsley Library on next Wednesday morning, Aug. 21 from 9-10:30. Homework is to read Act 46; know the number of students currently attending your elementary school and what it was a decade prior; and Google “pros and cons of small schools,” or go to thebestschools.org (or dozens of other sites that can be found along those same themes.) You’ll find plenty of entries from which to take ideas for discussion. Hope to see you there.