Addison County to vote on the fates of two schools

Published: Nov. 5, 2019 at 8:00 AM EST
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While Vermonters aren't voting for statewide offices Tuesday, a controversial vote about schools is taking place in Addison County.

Voters are deciding if two elementary schools will close at the end of the school year.

The Addison Northwest School District operates four town elementary schools and Vergennes Union High School.

Just a few years ago there were 1,400 total students attending them, now it's down to about 800.

The school board says closing Ferrisburgh Central and Addison Central would save tax money and increase educational opportunities.

If the vote passes, students in those schools would go to the Vergennes Elementary School. But many parents in the two rural communities say they aren't convinced this is a good idea.

"They are using Addison and Ferrisburgh as kind of quick solutions to try to fix some of those line items in their budget," said Kate Yarbrough of Ferrisburgh.

"This is a central part of this community, this little school brings people together like no other situation," said Judith Mace of Ferrisburgh.

The majority of the parents we spoke to echoed the sentiment that they want to keep their small rural schools close to home and they're happy with the way things are.

On the other hand, the school board says there was a 9 cent tax increase last year and that will go up again if voters decide to keep the schools open.

This theme in declining enrollment and rising costs isn't unique to Addison County.

Many recently merged districts across Vermont are facing the same dilemma and that's why Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French says you may have to make a similar decision in your small town.

"Yes, Act 46 is not about closing schools, but now we have to acknowledge that we have some issues on declining enrollments that need to be addressed. So, I expect more and more of these districts, types of situations to emerge and folks to have these conversations, but they are essentially local conversations," French said.

And the school board claims closing the school would help save money, too.

Members say there was a 9-cent tax increase last year and that tax could double to 18-cents if voters decide to keep the schools open.

Ultimately, the decision is up to Addison County voters and many parents told us they hope to rally the polls to keep their small rural schools close to home.

Polls will open at 7 a.m. at Ferrisburgh Town Hall and the Addison Town Clerk's Office.