Rather than “doom and gloom” as our primary focus, why don’t we concentrate on options that will actually attract families and increase enrollment? This is the only way to reduce our ever-increasing property tax bills. Closing a school while spending $30 million on a high school bond saves us nothing and in reality costs us much more.
Ultimately, our district will be healthier in myriad ways if we grow our enrollment: our tax base more robust, increases in programming, more jobs – all of the things that seem to be on the minds of most residents. The dilemma with the redesign scenarios on the table is that we either close schools or do nothing via “status quo.” Closing a school has innumerable consequences, but what if all of our schools remained open and we could boost enrollment at the same time? Do I have your attention now?
What is one resource that is lacking all across the state? Affordable child care. I would ask that the school board and administration expand our 3- to 5-year-old student after care program (known as “MECA/WECA/THECA”) while at the same time, launch birth to 3 care as an overflow based on community need. While we don’t want to disrupt those running a day care business in our communities, the lack of spots for infant care are just as much a stressor for them as it is for our families. I am envisioning a partnership with local day care providers so you don’t inadvertently jeopardize their businesses.
Now back to that dilemma. If we close one or more schools, this idea will never get off the ground. So status quo might work. But an excellent idea proposed by one of our community members offers this: no need to close schools, cost savings based on decrease in faculty costs, larger peer groups, and space for expansion of our day care programs. I call it “Option D(d).” Here are the basic details:
Thatcher Brook - birth to 5 child care, after school program and preK-2.
Crossett Brook - grades 3 to 6 plus administration offices.
Valley Schools - two buildings birth to 5 child care and preK-2; two schools grades 3 to 6 and after school programs.
Harwood - grades 7 to 12.
This will offer flexibility for faculty costs and space variables to adapt from year to year depending on student body. This will grow our enrollment. This will offer relief to struggling families or those who want to grow their families but afraid they won’t have care. This will control costs more than the “status quo” option. This will allow for more programming. This will reduce fear of school closure. This will preserve or even increase property values. This could reduce property taxes. What do we have to lose? If it doesn’t work, we have only lost a year and minimal buildout costs needed to launch this.
Don’t you think this deserves some further study?
If so, please consider contacting your board members to discuss your interest in this Option D(d) scenario or something similar you think might work better.
Daniel R. Mitchell lives in Moretown, Vermont.