Letter: Rivendell’s Serious Dilemma

To the Editor:

Valley News readers will recall from previous letters and reporting that the Rivendell Interstate School District faces an increasingly serious school financing issue.

The underlying problem is declining student enrollment and the consequent soaring cost per student. This decline has been especially true of the three Vermont towns. According to a recent study by the Vermont Legislature, Vermont has experienced the largest decline in enrollment among the 50 states. When Rivendell’s budget and staff increases are combined with ever-smaller student enrollment, the inevitable result is higher and higher per-student expenses.

Many school districts throughout Vermont are confronted with the same issues. Various forms of school mergers and consolidations have been implemented in other districts. Some districts have found that another effective strategy is to tuition their high school students into a nearby under-utilized school, making more economical use of a single school’s available capacity.

In a letter to school superintendents two years ago, Vermont State Commissioners of Education and Finance and Management called attention to these increasingly troubling circumstances and urged both budget restraint and consolidation.

Clearly, Rivendell’s current school organization and financing are out of touch with today’s reality. A districtwide public meeting is needed so that all of Rivendell’s constituents can be introduced to the facts, exchange ideas and suggestions, and discuss practical options. Voters in Fairlee, West Fairlee, Vershire and Orford would all be well advised to become informed and to get behind an effort to engage in comprehensive, fair-minded and objective analysis and discussion of Rivendell’s current condition and to explore with open minds what can be done to more cost effectively continue the high quality of education that we all expect for our students.

Mary Daly, Fairlee

David Bishoff, Orford

Paul Dalton, Orford