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AOE proposes to force school-district merger

The West River Modified Union School District has proposed reorganizing elementary schools.

Under one scenario, 3- and 4-year-olds would go to one school in Jamaica, kindergarteners through second-graders would go to Townshend, third- through fifth-graders would go to Newfane, and sixth through 12th grade would go to Leland & Gray in Townshend.

Under a second scenario, Jamaica’s school would be closed, but students from all of the towns would be separated into age-aligned school buildings.

Under scenarios as described, close-aged siblings would be going to different schools. Transportation issues and extra-curricular activities would be a scheduling nightmare for parents. All of this in the interest of “efficiency.”

Citizens of Putney, Dummerston, Brattleboro, and Guilford, towns that have overwhelmingly voted not to merge, should be concerned with the state Agency of Education’s proposal to force the merging of our school districts.

If this happens, you will no longer have your community schools. Your children will be dispersed throughout the various towns in accordance with plans made by a school board that will be far removed from your community’s values.

What is happening in the West River Modified Union School District will most likely happen in our supervisory union, because that is the scenario that the state is pushing.

If you have moved to Putney because you value the special programs the Putney Central School offers, those programs will no longer be available to your children should a similar proposal be promoted by a nine-member school board on which you have only one representative.

Similarly, if you live in Guilford, your school with only 100 or so students could find itself on the chopping block, much like what might happen with the Jamaica school should a plan B be implemented.

Putney and Dummerston residents should be aware that they could, under a similar program of consolidation, find that they will lose their seventh and eighth grades, forcing the students to go to Brattleboro Area Middle School, thus creating space to allow for the parsing of grades such as is being proposed in the West River Valley.

Legislators can lobby the Board of Education on our behalf. They can promise to initiate legislation that will limit the power of the Board of Education to go against the will of the communities that have voted not to merge.

This is an election year. If you don’t want this to happen, make this an election issue with your legislators who are seeking reelection and their challengers. We need their help in supporting the votes of all four towns, which overwhelming rejected merger.

Paul Normandeau

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Originally published in The Commons issue #467 (Wednesday, July 11, 2018). This story appeared on page D2.

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