Letter to the editor: ACSD school buildings study near completion

With so much attention in the pages of the Addison Independent paid to the challenges that the school systems of Addison County are facing in light of declining enrollment, building needs and other factors, it seemed an opportune time to provide an update on the status of work in the Addison Central School District.

The ACSD Board is in the midst of creating a Facilities Master Plan. This plan is to provide guidance to the ACSD Board of today and in the future to address how best to use our buildings and other facilities in a way that continues to build a strong educational program that is a good value to taxpayers. The plan will include an in-depth study of our school buildings that is currently underway. This information, which will be shared with the board and public once complete, is designed to help guide the board as it looks at building capacity across our elementary schools, and how reducing the number of elementary schools might look.

The building study is expected to finish in early December, and the board is currently putting together a public engagement process to share the information and, more importantly, receive feedback.

This has been a new and evolving process for the ACSD board. Creating a long-term plan based on contraction rather than growth has not been done in Vermont previously.

Like most rural school districts in Vermont, ACSD has seen a significant drop in enrollment over the past 30 years, a trend that is expected to continue, though at a slower rate. This drop in enrollment presents major financial challenges as it has translated into higher than average per pupil spending for ACSD — a key figure in determining property tax rates. It also has educational impacts as more rural schools have moved to multi-grade classrooms and are simply not large enough to have needed services available on a daily basis, to name two examples.

Meanwhile, an initial survey of all of our district buildings shows years of deferred maintenance that must be addressed to bring our schools up to date and provide the kinds of learning environments we want for our students.

The ACSD Facilities Master Plan is designed to guide the board in addressing these issues, among others, but also identify opportunities for student equity and increased opportunity. One example studied now for several years is moving the district sixth-graders to Middlebury Union Middle School, so they can study together and have equal access to a great program with a broad range of activities and resources.

The Facilities Master Plan process has generated a lot of questions in the district, about its origin, goals, process and future. The ACSD Board has collected many of these questions and posted answers on the acsdvt.org web site, questions such as:

Why is the ACSD Board considering closing some small schools?

Why are education costs increasing?

Wasn’t unification supposed to lower costs?

How can I be better informed?

How does the board define equity and how does this work impact the Facilities Master Plan?

These are but five of 25 questions currently posted. As more questions are generated, we will expand the Frequently Asked Questions section with them.

To get to these questions and answers, go to acsdvt.org, and click on the “Board and Community” section in the main navigation bar at the top. There you will see a link to the Facilities Master Plan section, which has these FAQs as well as links to other information used in the planning process.

The ACSD Board encourages district residents to use these resources to learn more about the important work it is currently engaged in.

Peter Conlon

ACSD Board chairman

Cornwall

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