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Oak Meadow plans move to consolidate operations

Distance-learning school and curriculum publisher prepares to relocate to Basketville building in Putney

BRATTLEBORO—Starting in April, Oak Meadow will begin its move from Brattleboro to Putney, an effort to consolidate staff from two sites in a building well-suited for its publishing and mail-order activities.

Oak Meadow will rent approximately two-thirds of the first floor of Basketville’s headquarters at 8 Bellows Falls Rd. in Putney, said Steve Lorenz, its executive director and school liaison.

The international organization provides distance education curriculum and programing for students in kindergarten through grade 12. Students in 69 countries plus the United States use the organization’s curriculum.

Currently, the organization occupies two separate sites in Brattleboro: Cotton Mill for its publishing and business arm, and Brooks House, where sales, marketing, and programing staff have worked out of offices overlooking Main and High Streets.

Lorenz said the move will happen in two stages, with the staff at the Cotton Mill relocating to Putney in April. The staff at the Brooks House will move starting in late September.

“It’s actually quite emotional,” he said.

Oak Meadow employs 20 staff and 30 teachers (a combination of full- and part-time). Some employees work remotely, said Lorenz.

Approximately 15 staff will move to the Basketville property, where that company closed its retail outlet in 2018. Its wholesale operation remains in the building.

Lorenz explained that the move grew out of a need to become more efficient as an organization and a desire to become more cohesive as colleagues.

Approximately a year ago, the organization started looking at more effective ways to operate, Lorenz said. Through discussions with staff, he also realized that people wanted to improve how they work together.

“It was a tough decision,” he said, praising the organization’s current landlords, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. and Brooks House Realty.

Lorenz called his office at the Brooks House “the most beautiful office I’ve ever worked in” and said he will miss walking down Main Street.

The search took a year because the organization needs a loading dock to ship and receive its publications.

He estimates that Oak Meadow creates and publishes between 75 to 80 percent of the educational tools it sells.

The Basketville building also has ample parking for employees and is an easy walk to the Putney General Store, Lorenz added.

Putney also feels like an “education hub,” which is a good fit for the organization, he added, ticking off school names such as the Putney School, Landmark College, the Grammar School, and Greenwood School.

The organization anticipates saving money because it will pay only one rent instead of two, he said.

Ultimately, however, Lorenz said the main goal is to have all the organization’s local staff under one roof.

A need for the ‘new and different’

Oak Meadow has recently gone through a few transitions, such as a change in executive directors two years ago, he said.

According to the organization’s website, before taking the leadership role at Oak Meadow two years ago, Lorenz served as head of the Grammar School. He has served as elementary school principal, and as secondary school, elementary school, and early-childhood education teacher.

Lorenz added that the organization decided not to return to the Cotton Mill because staff felt the need for a new space.

“The Cotton Mill is a fine location but we needed new and different,” he said.

Oak Meadow serves approximately 600 enrolled students, more than 5,000 individuals, and 100 schools in the United States.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #545 (Wednesday, January 22, 2020). This story appeared on page A4.

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