A Message from the ANWSD Board of Directors: School Reconfiguration

To All Community Members of the ANWSD:

At our Work Session/Retreat on 8/22, the ANWSD Board of Directors heard from Ken Sullivan, Director of Buildings, Grounds & Safety; Elizabeth Jennings, Director of Finance and Operations; and Sheila Soule, Superintendent. We learned the current state of our facilities, expected maintenance needs, and enrollment trends and projections. Comparisons were made for building capacity, transportation impact, educational potential, and cost for the district restructuring ideas generated on May 30.

Upon reviewing the information presented by the administration on August 22, 2019, the board concludes that our district has reached a point where incremental cuts are no longer a fiscally realistic option. Our district enrollment numbers no longer justify the current configuration of four schools. The ANWSD Board’s priority is to provide and fund the best education possible for our children within the fiscal bounds of both our district and the State. To accomplish this, we must prioritize our focus and spending on the fundamental elements of our students’ education while consolidating our fixed costs wherever necessary.

If we take no action, our district budget will continue to increase and we will cross the State’s threshold for per-pupil spending. This will result in additional and significant penalty costs for our taxpayers. If unaddressed this year, these painful cost increases and penalties will further accelerate and compound over future years.

After careful consideration, the board narrowed the discussion down to several possible options. While no decision has been made, the board favorably discussed the following option:

Close Ferrisburgh Central School and Addison Central School. Create a new preschool–4th-grade elementary school at the current Vergennes Union Elementary School building. Utilize the high school building to its full potential by expanding the middle school to include grades 5–8, thereby educating grades 5–12 in the high school building.

Throughout this process, the board focused on the importance of transparency and engagement with the community. The decisions we are about to make regarding school configuration will be guided by our strategic planning process as well as the information we collected during our community engagement sessions. The board believes that this process has provided the best opportunities for community feedback.

A series of community meetings will be scheduled over the next few months to provide additional opportunities for community feedback and any decision to close a school or approve a budget will ultimately come to the voters.

The board will vote on the reconfiguration model on September 9. If the board supports this model, the towns of Addison and Ferrisburgh will be asked to vote to support the closure of their schools (a vote that is required by our articles of district unification).

If the two towns agree to support the closure of these schools, the board will develop a new budget for consideration on Town Meeting Day and all changes will take effect at the start of the 2020–2021 school year.

For more information, please read a summary of the board’s 8/22 conversation https://tinyurl.com/y4zp8yev and minutes of the meeting posted at anwsd.org.

Our next meeting is September 9, 2019, at 6pm at VUHS. At this meeting, we will accept Superintendent Soule’s evaluation and goals for 2019-20, hear reports on policies F32, C2, school safety, and special education trends, and take action on a district restructuring plan. The public is invited to comment.

If you have any questions, please contact the ANWSD directly as we cannot respond to postings due to open meeting laws. You can visit anwsd.org for board agendas, full minutes, and links to RETN recordings of past meetings. Thank you for your continued support and engagement.

Respectfully,

Susan Rakowski (Vergennes) *Chair
Thomas Borchert (Waltham) *Vice Chair
Kristina MacKulin (Ferrisburgh) *Board Clerk
Laurie Childers (Addison)
Bill Clark (Ferrisburgh)
Bradley Dewey (Panton)
George Gardner (Ferrisburgh)
Laurie Gutowski (Ferrisburgh)
Mark Koenig (Vergennes)
George Lawrence (Addison)
Keith Morrill (Vergennes)
John Stroup (Vergennes)

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