"We were neighbors before this meeting started, we're going to be neighbors afterward, so let's behave like neighbors while we're here," said meeting moderator Ed Smith in his opening remarks.
Emotions were high in the standing room only gymnasium in Cabot. Though multiple items were on the agenda, everyone was there for article five.
"Shall the Cabot School Board be directed to close the Cabot High School prior to July the first 2013?" Smith asked.
"I would love to keep this school. I really would," said lifelong resident and former School Board member Cedric Houston as he addressed the crowd.
But Houston said closing the high school is the right choice to give the roughly sixty students who attend more opportunities.
"These kids should have a choice in going to a high school where they can get the subject they need not just the ones that are sponsored here," Houston said.
The school board said closing Cabot's high school would mean a jump in tax rates for the coming year -- to about 431 dollars per $100,000 of assessed homestead value. That's because students would be tuitioned to other towns.
"I would really prefer to have my property taxes go to my town school," said Mary Carpenter who supports keeping the school open. "I have no interest in sending money to St. Johnsbury, I don't want to send money to Danville," she said of potential school choice options.
Enrollment at the school has been steadily declining in recent years. Supporters of closing the high school say parents who currently home school their kids -- or send them to private school -- might reconsider public school if there are more educational choices.
"They're going to come back into the numbers, they're going to go back into the pupil count and they're going to benefit your tax rate," said supporter Brigitte Codling.
About 600 residents attended the meeting, but only three got to speak before a vote ended public comment after just ten minutes. Ballot by ballot -- residents cast their vote on a debate that has been dividing the small Vermont town. The final tally was 322 to 149. Cabot High School will remain open.
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