|Clarksburg School Holding Information Meeting on Interstate District|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
08:47PM / Monday, March 26, 2018
|Clarksburg School is hosting an information session this Thursday on the upcoming special town meeting vote. |
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — An informational forum will be held on Thursday at Clarksburg School at 6:30 to answer questions about the upcoming vote on taking action toward a proposed merger with the Stamford, Vt., school district.
The special town meeting is set for April 5 at the school.
The school has mailed out a brochure
explaining the reasons for exploring an interstate school district, including providing more educational opportunities, access to a full-day preschool and expanded space.
The wording of the warrant will be the same as that tabled at December's special town meeting
because of objections by the School Committee over the language. The article inferred that the vote would be to merge, while the subcommittees working on the proposal were seeking permission to enter into discussions that would allow state funds to be spent on a feasibility study.
Superintendent of Schools Jonathan Lev explained at Thursday's School Committee meeting that the language is the same but a yes vote does not agree to a merger.
"Voting 'yes' allows Stamford and Clarksburg to officially enter into discussion on creating an interstate agreement and begin a feasibility study," he said. "It does not mean that we necessarily agree to merge."
The warrant stated the motion "would allow" the town to merge, Lev said. "I think that's the key wording and I know the wording came directly from the legislators and the home rule petition."
Special Education Director Debra A Rosselli said the language has been discussed at the subcommittees.
"That whole discrepancy, that misunderstanding, you know, was 'agreement' and what does that actually mean," she said. "What they explained on the Vermont side was that they were able to say 'discussion' but the template of the state of Massachusetts puts it into those terms."
The $25,000 in funds earmarked last year by the late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi for a feasibility study cannot be accessed until after the town votes to move forward. Lev said the hope was that the Vermont Legislature would at least match that amount.
The study would look at scenarios of how the district could operate, including governance, funding, and curriculum. Stamford is looking for an interstate option to Vermont's Act 46 that is pushing smaller schools to become part of unified districts that can streamline costs and governance. Stamford voters overwhelmingly rejected a scheme
that would put it in a union with Readsboro and with Halifax — some 25 miles away over mountain roads. The school district currently has 99 students total, including 11 Clarksburg children in preschool.
"In addition to formalized collaboration, it is important to recognize the desire residents have to stay within the towns. Many residents grow up to settle between the two locations due to the strong family and emotional ties. The two towns embody the sense of a single community despite the invisible state line," states a proposal for an interstate district
drawn up by Stamford.
Both towns would vote on a final proposal formalizing an interstate agreement.
The committee also got a brief update on the state of community-led renovations
, which have not yet got off the ground. School officials and members of the renovation steering committee did a walk-through of the 60-year-old school building recently to get a better sense of what was needed.
Voters rejected a $19 million renovation
and addition to the aging school last year, which also mean the loss of some $11 million in state money toward the project. There is currently a $500,000 earmark in a $30 million Senate capital spending bill toward replacing the roof on the main building, but that is not guaranteed. The town is also trying to access its Green Communities grant toward replacing the outdated boilers.
Both Lev and Erin Scott, a member of the volunteer committee, said they had heard the town had not yet been able to free up those Green Community funds.
"We need to find out about that soon because we would like to work on that this summer," said Lev. The goal has been to get any interior work done when there are no children in the building to avoid class disruptions.
Principal Tara Barnes said she also had Foster Goodrich, president of School Guard Glass, in the building to discuss safety options, something that had not risen to the top in prior discussions. Since then, several more shootings have occurred in schools, including the killing of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the state of Florida.
"It has to happen, it's not something I want to wait on because obviously, it's a priority that we are doing every step we can do to have a safe building," she said.
Barnes said she and Goodrich had focused on the main entrance as a high priority. Built in the 1960s, the nearly all glass front admits visitors directly in the to lobby with access to both wings. The doors are now locked and visitors must signal the office to be let in but the area is no way hardened to prevent a determined person to enter.
The idea is to create a vestibule with a window from the office to see who is being admitted. The glass would be hardened, but not bullet-proof. A second focus would be the back doors by the gym, which would have new glass or possibly be replaced.
"I know boilers are important and they need to be fixed, too, but this also needs bumping up to a top priority," Barnes said.
Lev said any safety work would probably have to be funded out of the school choice account. "I don't see the town giving us the money to do that," he said.
In other business, Barnes reported that the last day of school will June 11 and eighth-grade graduation would be June 1.
Clarksburg was able to make up five of the seven snow days this year through its pilot "blizzard bag" program. The "bags" were assignments aligned with the school's curriculums. The teachers put the bags together and were available via email during those days.
"The teachers made five different bags. It was a lot of work," said Barnes, adding teachers were still tweaking the concept. "We're still collecting data on how well they worked."
She hoped to get another parent survey done near the end of the school year.
Barnes also updated on the use of student-led conferences in every grade to show parents how they are progressing.
"It was a huge undertaking," she added, for the teachers to take on. "It's not easy to go outside your comfort zone and try something new. I'm really proud of them, I think they're proud of their students."
Chairwoman Patricia Prenguber said she couldn't get over the amount of detail and organization that went into the presentations. Lev said they were very well organized even in kindergarten, where the youngsters had notebooks and examples of how they progressed over time.
"They were very well prepared and did a very good job," he said. He felt that the students would be able to build a portfolio of their work they could take with them on graduation.
The committee put off a vote on school choice slots until the next meeting. There were anticipated openings in kindergarten and the sixth-grade but a last-minute rush of registrations may have eliminated any kindergarten spots. It was felt the administration would have a better handle on kindergarten numbers by next month.
Clarksburg Brochure on School District Merger by iBerkshires.com on Scribd