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Letter: True Friends of Norwich Library

Consolidate Schools

To the Editor:

I am disappointed to learn that residents of Braintree voted not to combine their School Board with Randolph and Brookfield. Every other Vermont taxpayer should share my disappointment, because the cost of this decision, which was made against the recommendation of the town’s own School Board, will ultimately be borne by all of us.

I have taken an interest in this question. Anyone who has will quickly figure out that the only matter at stake is the future of Braintree’s elementary school, since that is all there is to Braintree’s school “system.” Were the town to have voted for this consolidation, the next thing that would have happened, four years later thanks to the speed bump set in place by the Legislature, would have been a move to close that school, due to declining enrollment. Thus, those in Braintree voting against this consolidation were voting to keep their elementary school. Though this is understandable, it is nevertheless regrettable, for it has nothing to do with better schooling, or with better spending decisions. Children do not benefit by attending schools that are too small to serve their interests.

This is only one instance of a greater problem facing parents, taxpayers and other concerned citizens statewide. In the 15 years since the Legislature responded to the order given them by the Supreme Court by enacting a statewide property tax and funding scheme for education, such disbursements have annually risen by close to 7 percent. Thus the state’s budget for education has more than doubled. During this period, enrollment statewide has declined by close to 15 percent. One would think this would lead to consolidation, but it has not. For instance, there is a high school in Bethel and one in South Royalton and one in Randolph. But I am willing to bet that standardized testing and other measurements of achievement will not support the claim that smaller is better, and thus that students have fully benefited from this surge in spending. It is time for these schools to be combined. But it is very doubtful that such necessary consolidations will occur as a result of voluntary actions taken by voters.

Tyler P. Harwell

Bethel

Expand Bus Service

To the Editor:

It is easy to relate to complaints about the lack of public transportation at Harvest Hill, as we have the same situation at Quail Hollow. The bus service here is limited to that furnished by the Lebanon Senior Center and is only on weekdays — no weekends or holidays and fixed routes on specified days. If you have an appointment at a time or day when the bus is not going there, the only recourse is a taxi. It is two miles from Quail Hollow to Hanover — cab fare is $10; to the hospital, it is $15.

Advance Transit operates a bus service for qualified applicants. Eligibility is established by submitting a lengthy application, an interview with a company official and a medical infirmity that prohibits the applicant from reaching regular bus stops. The service is on an on-call basis — it picks you up at your residence and delivers you to your destination, and reverse for the way home. Donations are accepted by Advance Transit.

The person who wrote about Harvest Hill was both critical and flattering of the facility, and we could be the same of Quail Hollow, but I am quite sure that Harvest Hill residents are more affluent and can afford the “extras” that come their way. I assume that Harvest Hill does not have so-called “tax credit apartments” or residents receiving Section 8 subsidies. A percentage of qualifying Quail Hollow residents are permitted to participate in these programs.

Advance Transit operates regular service only on weekdays. On a holiday weekend there is no service for three days. Solution: Advance Transit should establish rider fares on its routes (a relief to the towns that now contribute operating revenue) and expand its service to include weekends and evenings.

Whoever heard of a free bus service? Why should employed people have free transportation to work while leaving their cars at home? Why should we without bus service be required to subsidize it? Advance Transit accepts donations from its users but the amount probably falls far short of expenses. A change is long past due.

Gordon M. Stone

West Lebanon