Windham voters should reject petition to close school

WINDHAM — According to an April 14 story in VtDigger, 40 Readsboro residents signed a petition requesting that the town close its elementary school. The same thing is happening in Windham this year.

Both petitions reflect a trend to undervalue small community schools and accept the opinion that closing a local school and sending children to a larger consolidated school would be better.

No evidence supports this opinion, and the effect - and perhaps the purpose of these petitions - is to divide and confuse the community.

A year ago, a group of concerned citizens who appreciate the value of the Windham Elementary School founded a nonprofit group to show the advantages of town and school cooperation.

Thanks to generous donations from residents and their support of bake sales and raffles, they raised the money to replace the worn-out linoleum floor in the school's multipurpose room with a new maple floor that community volunteers worked weekends and vacations to install.

This group of small school supporters also built a row of raised-bed gardens with planks donated by a local mill. Students planted the vegetables and flowers they had started in their classrooms, and over the summer, community volunteers and students took turns keeping the beds watered.

In September, there was a well-attended harvest festival, Potato Day, with a bonfire, music, and games. Other projects included a new sandbox, also built with donated planks from the local sawmill, and work on the school nature trail.

Between now and May 20, Windham's Town Meeting Day this year, a vote will take place on the petition to close the school.

The petitioners' argument is that parents will have a choice about where their children attend elementary school. This is misleading. The Windham children will not have the choice to attend their local town school because it will be gone. And unless parents have the time to transport their children to and from an out-of-town school, the only “choice” for young Windham children is to ride the early bus down the mountain to Townshend with the high school students.

I believe that the people in Windham should reject the petition to close their school and work together so that the students receive a well-rounded, community-supported public education in their own village school.

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