Could farming save Cabot's high school?

CABOT, Vt. (WCAX) Cabot's high school is at a crossroads.

"Tonight, we will be making a fairly big decision about what to do for the next steps for the town," said Sharon O'Connor, a member of the Cabot School Board.

"I really hope that they keep the high school open," said Jack Daniels, a Cabot resident.

Declining enrollment and continued budget cuts leave the school board with few options. One is closing the school and sending its 55 students elsewhere. Cabot would join a tuitioning district with Walden, Waterford and Barnet. Voters would need to approve that. Another option is creating what's being called an agricultural academy.

"This is the actual survey we sent out to folks. We mostly tried to give an idea of the pros and cons. Now, we are at the stage where we need to write an alternative governance structure to stay a pre-K through 12 or make a pretty big choice to change to a choiced town. We have to have a vote to do that," O'Connor said.

Supporters argue creating the Cabot Academy would attract out-of-state students, particularly from Boston or New York City, willing to pay the $45,000 tuition. They would get hands-on training in agricultural practices by partnering with nearby farms and live in a small, rural community, staying with host families.

"It's a way to significantly improve opportunities for Cabot students without having it fall upon the Cabot taxpayers," Daniels said.

Part of the tuition would pay host families and go to programming for the entire school community. But startup money would be needed. Supporters point to a $250,000 federal grant that could be used and a $250,000 loan from that same fund.

"They are big decisions because we need to figure out how to make it a stronger school if it is a pre-K through 12 or how to make the change happen if it is not," O'Connor said.

The school board indicated it would make an announcement at its meeting tonight. We will update you when we learn what they decided.