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School enrollment increases as families move to Vermont

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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WOODSTOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - At the start of the pandemic, people were fleeing COVID-19 hot zones for safer ground. Some of them came to Vermont, and with school enrollment increasing around the state, it looks like some of those families may be staying.

Brett and Marianne Ralph moved to Vermont with their daughter, Ella, 4, and son, Carter, 2, about a month-and-a-half ago. They started thinking about moving about a year ago, but the coronavirus pandemic and learning Brett would be able to work remotely is what sealed the deal. “All of these things came together and pushed us to jump in and make it happen," said Brett.

Before making the move they spent months researching schools. “The school system encourages happy people and encourages kids to be outside and find what they’re really passionate about. And I think that really drew us to the area, and not that we couldn’t have had those opportunities in western Massachusetts, but they feel more abundant here,” Brett said.

“Pre-K is only two days a week, but she asks every day, ‘Can I go to school today?’ and that just makes me feel like we made the right choice, because she seems genuinely happy,” said Marianne.

“We were one of those districts that were impacted by reduced enrollment,” said Windsor Central Supervisory Union Interim Superintendent Sherry Sousa. She says the district lost 80 students to graduation this year. Others changed schools or moved to home-schooling. In a typical school year, they enroll between 50 and 70 new students. This year, they registered over 200, some from as far away as Florida, Washington state, New Mexico, and California. That’s good for a net gain of 38 students, mostly from out-of-state.

Sousa says the biggest gains came at Woodstock and Killington schools, primarily in pre-K through fifth grade. Some of that is from families in the Killington area converting second homes into their primary homes because of the pandemic. “We know that some families are doing this for a year, but maybe if they see how different education in Vermont is, and in our district, they may consider staying here," she said.

People from out of state aren’t just moving to Woodstock. They’re moving all across Vermont, primarily in ski and tourist areas. Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy says they’re seeing more foot traffic and property transfers are way up. “It was up over 50% in the last month. People are buying homes. I’m not sure if it’s an arm’s length sale, or if it’s just regular people trying to get away and buy property up here," he said.

One of the principals from a school in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union tells WCAX, their school and others in the district have seen an increase in enrollment as well.

The Ralphs understand a concern to many Vermonters is out-of-staters moving to the area and leaving after a year-and-a-half, but they say their plan is to stay. “When people come to Vermont, it just brings you in, and I think they’ll stay. I don’t know how you could leave," said Brett.

“We definitely don’t want to leave,” added Marianne.

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The New Vermonters: Fleeing COVID-19, newcomers find temporary — or permanent — refuge in the Green Mountains

Can COVID refugees help Vermont dig out of demographic hole?

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