Key Information

What are the issues that might impact Robinson?

When our towns merged into Mount Abe Unified School District in 2018, the towns all agreed that no school would be closed without the approval of that town’s voters.

In December 2020, Superintendent Patrick Reen presented a plan to the School Board to address concerns about the long term financial sustainability of MAUSD. The plan involved closing the elementary school programs in Starksboro, Lincoln, and New Haven. Grades K-5 would be at the Bristol and Monkton schools. Grades 6-8 would be sent to Vergennes. Grades 9-12 would stay at Mt Abe, together with Vergennes high school students.

The Superintendent claimed that replacing elementary school programs with "innovation centers" in Starksboro and Lincoln, and with the MAUSD Early Education program and Superintendent’s office in New Haven, is not "closing" under the Articles of Agreement, but merely a “repurposing” which the District can accomplish without needing the approval of town voters. After community members advocated for the right of towns to vote, the School Board affirmed that towns would have the right to vote if the School Board recommends moving the K-6 program to another school. Read more about our towns' right to vote on the future of our schools.

Community members protested this plan for a number of reasons, and the School Board responded to concerns by inviting community members to submit alternate proposals and hiring an education consultant, Nate Levenson, to design a process for evaluating proposals and soliciting additional community input with the goal of arriving at a final recommendation. The consultant's final report can be found here, and while it contains many interesting recommendations, including the option of keeping all community schools open and maintaining towns' right to vote on the future of their schools, the Merger Study Committee has not yet followed the advice to affirm towns' right to vote in the proposed merger (see below merger information).

Another School District Merger Could Complicate the Situation

In the meantime, there is a process underway to explore the possibility of merging MAUSD (Lincoln, Starksboro, Bristol, Monkton, and New Haven) with ANWSD (Panton, Waltham, Vergennes, Addison, and Ferrisburgh). Concerns have been raised that a merger could eliminate the right of towns to vote on school closure as well as lead to a School Board that is out of touch with each town’s unique needs. Moving the governance of our schools, farther from our towns and our children than it has already been moved, is a step in the wrong direction.

Read more about the ANWSD/MAUSD Merger Process.

School Withdrawal and Ratification Vote

Amidst all the uncertainty about the future of our schools, the town of Lincoln decided to withdraw from MAUSD, and the other four towns have affirmed their decision. We’ve also seen the nearby town of Ripton make the difficult decision to withdraw from their school district when faced with the possibility of having their elementary school closed.

We have now determined that withdrawal from MAUSD may be Starksboro's last chance to protect our right to vote on school closure, unless the Merger Committee decides to affirm our right to vote. Read more about how we landed on pursuing withdrawal here and find our Withdrawal Q & A here.

UPDATE: A plurality of yes votes for ratification was achieved in the three towns combined (Bristol, Monkton, New Haven); each town, however, needed to vote yes in order for the initiative to pass. While we were not successful in achieving ratification of Starksboro’s effort to withdraw from MAUSD, we appreciate all those who helped the cause.

State Legislature Creating Barriers to School Withdrawal

The State Legislature is considering a bill (H.727) that would impose complex rules on towns that wish to withdraw from their respective school districts. Read an article, published March 31, 2022, about this issue in the Addison Independent. This heartfelt letter to a member of the Senate Education Committee written by Starksboro SOS member Chris Runcie summarizes the concerns of the SOS committee.

Find a sample letter that you can send to Vermont Senators about this timely issue on our Take Action page.

Let's Solve Our Educational Problems Together

Attracting more families to our region would address the declining enrollment in our local schools. We believe that increasing the availability of jobs, housing, and childcare would all be a productive use of our time and resources. If we work together on these issues, we're more likely to see vibrant, thriving schools.

Read more in this Op-Ed, written by Nancy Cornell and published in the Addison County Independent in December 2021.

Now What?

Starksboro residents are left with the following questions:

  1. Will the School Board close the Robinson School elementary program?

  2. Will the School Board acknowledge that Starksboro residents have a right to vote on whether it's elementary school program is closed? (Update: YES - read all about it here!)

  3. What options does Starksboro have if the new, merged school district combining MAUSD And ANSWD does not ensure that our town will have the right to vote on school closure? The committee is currently pursuing withdrawal from MAUSD as a potential solution for keeping Robison School open.

  4. What are some financially feasible alternatives to the Superintendent's plan to close elementary school programs - alternatives that would maintain strong educational programs for our children without closing our community schools?

One of the purposes of Starksboro Save Our Schools Committee is to seek answers to these questions.

Further Reading