Letter to the editor: Small saving not enough to ignore Ripton's wishes

The Addison Central School District Central Office recently created a document on the financial impact of Ripton’s withdrawal for the rest of the towns in ACSD. It was shared by school board members on Front Porch Forum and it confirmed that “a potential Ripton withdrawal could result in a small savings in education spending per equalized pupil for the remaining towns in ACSD. Additionally, this scenario would recognize virtually zero discernable tax impact.”

What struck me about the Central Office’s document was not that Ripton’s withdrawal would have virtually no impact on taxes in other towns, which was expected, but the fact that the Central Office chose to present two scenarios for readers’ consideration: 1) what the tax implication would be of Ripton’s withdrawal and 2) what the tax implication would be if Ripton Elementary School is instead closed. While both scenarios estimate potential savings for taxpayers in all ACSD towns outside Ripton, the document concludes that the savings would be greater for the remaining towns if Ripton’s withdrawal is denied and their school is instead closed, seemingly enticing taxpayers in Middlebury, Bridport, Cornwall, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge to save a little money at the expense of Ripton’s children.

Is this what community is supposed to look like? Is this how we want to make a town in our community feel — that we care more about our own potential gains than respecting what they believe is best for their kids and town? Is having no adverse effect on our towns not enough reason to honor Ripton’s vote to withdraw?

I have heard the school board tell Ripton that we will be “Stronger Together.” I have watched the Central Office try to convince Ripton that their students will gain more by staying in ACSD by having access to a full-time nurse, guidance counselor and specialists, single-grade classrooms, and more social opportunities. Despite these possible benefits, Ripton overwhelmingly voted in favor of withdrawal. They don’t want their kids to potentially be split between Mary Hogan and Salisbury. They don’t want their elementary students riding a bus up and down the mountain every day. They don’t want to lose their connection to their kids’ school where they can easily go today to volunteer, watch a student presentation, or meet with a staff member. They don’t want to lose their small school that they built and paid for just 27 years ago that draws young families to their town and ensures its future vitality. For Ripton residents, they believe the benefits of their local community school outweigh the benefits ACSD is touting even if their taxes go up and we should honor their decision.

Instead, ACSD seems to be promoting to other towns that rather than being satisfied with the small savings resulting from ratifying Ripton’s withdrawal, they should consider a larger savings by forcing Ripton to stay in the district so ACSD can then turn around and close Ripton’s school. I find it heartbreaking to think about how this must make Ripton feel. Just five years ago the ACSU school boards assured us all that we would be better off under a unified district when Act 46 passed. The new unified school district was supposed to represent all ACSD communities — including Ripton. That same unified school district is now sharing a document suggesting that other towns may be even better off by sacrificing Ripton. I hope we are better than this and that we honor Ripton’s desire to withdraw by voting YES on Town Meeting Day.

Jenny Phelps

Weybridge

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Addison County Independent