Good news ahead of the new school year for folks in Elmore who really like their traditional one-room schoolhouse: it’s not going away any time soon.
Same goes for any of the schools in Morristown and Stowe, the other Lamoille South school district towns.
That was the message from schoolboard chair David Bickford last week as he aimed to allay concerns about the contents of a building-use study the district ordered up last year. The 101-page report, which was prepared by the New England School Development Council at the cost of $18,000, was released at an April 6 board meeting, the first time the public — including board members — had seen the report.
“Personally, I need to digest that a little bit,” schoolboard member Dave McAllister of Morristown said at the time.
One portion of the report laid out five different options for how to use the schools in the three towns, everything from using all eight district-owned buildings to shutting down some of them, to building a shared high school for all three towns.
Of those five suggested scenarios, only one kept The Elmore School open.
New superintendent Ryan Heraty had already stated in an interview with the newspaper earlier this month that the closure of The Elmore School was off the table, but schoolboard chair David Bickford reiterated that last week, issuing a statement during the Aug. 17 board meeting:
“I would like to clarify for the public that the presentation we received last spring regarding the Building Use Study was just that — the results of a study. No action is being contemplated at this time or in the immediate future that would change the configuration of any of our schools. Each of the schools will remain as they are, including the Elmore School and the elementary, middle, and high school configurations for Morristown and Stowe. I know that there is a lot of concern about information, and to some degree misinformation, within the community and I feel that it is important that we make a clear statement to members of the public that we have no plans for changing our school configurations in the foreseeable future.”
Bickford said the district also has existing facilities studies conducted prior to the Lamoille South merger in 2019 for Stowe and Morristown schools and will likely wait until the school year gets going and let Heraty “have a chance to catch his breath” before taking up facilities needs.
Board member Tiffany Donza of Stowe said it’s also important to beef up the district’s capital fund to be able to pay for any future building projects, which she said is close to being “dried up.”
“If we stay on task with the projects that were going to be completed this school year, that fund is done,” Donza said.
Heraty said the administration won’t be able to have an official enrollment count at the schools until later in September, once the ebbs and flows of family migrations settle into place.
“This is the time when you start to see some pretty big increases here and there,” Heraty said.
So far that includes 15 new students at Morristown Elementary School, while Stowe Elementary looks like last year. At the high school level, Peoples Academy has 13 or 14 new students while Stowe High has 11.
“I think that’s good after the pandemic and people staying home and going to other schools and so forth,” board member Dick Shanley of Morristown said.
In other news, the Lamoille South school district is already meeting its statutory responsibility when it comes to a May vote by Stowe residents to leave the merged school district. The school board sought a legal opinion in June, before Heraty started on the job, but he said the legal opinion — which is confidential between the board and the lawyers — indicated any next steps in the process for Stowe to withdraw is up to the other district towns.
“So, really, it’s out of our hands as a school district and needs to go to the towns for voting,” Heraty said.