March 7 ballots to decide school unification
Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union voters will decide whether to create the Slate Valley Unified Union District March 7. If passed, the measure would merge the Castleton, Hubbardton, West Haven, Fair Haven, Orwell, and Benson school districts into one, served by an 18-member board.
Those same voters considered the measure last year. Five of the six towns approved the merger, but Orwell did not. Orwell rejected the plan twice, in April and again in June. Because approval by all participating towns was necessary for the merger, no new district was created. The towns had to re-form a new merger committee.
But since last year, some changes have occurred. In the current balloting, no town’s negative vote will torpedo the proposition. All now have “advisable” status. A modified union school district may form even if one or more towns reject it. Also, the 18-member school board now comprises three members from each of the six towns; the previous proposal weighted the board in favor of towns with higher populations.
As in the previous year’s proposal, no schools will close during the merged district’s first four years. Closing a school would require approval by 75 percent of the new school board and of voters where the school is located.
The state Board of Education approved the merger plan on Jan. 17. Public meetings to explore the plan will take place at the Castleton elementary school Feb. 27; Hubbardtown town hall, Feb. 28; Benson town hall and Orwell town hall, on March 1; and West Haven’s Buckley Memorial Grange Hall and at Fair Haven Grade School, both on March 2. The proposal also appears on the website www.arsu.org.
Pawlet-area school merger study committee forming
PAWLET—When Pawlet and Rupert school boards met jointly in January, they unanimously decided to form a new committee charged with studying a merger of Pawlet, Rupert, and UD #47 (the Mettawee Elementary School) school boards. Pawlet and Rupert residents who are interested in being appointed to the new Pawlet/Rupert/UD47 merger study committee should send a letter of interest to Celeste Keel (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 1.
Cause of Fair Haven house fire investigated
FAIR HAVEN—None of the factors that typically trigger fire in a vacant house were present when 8 Union St. in Fair Haven caught fire Feb 6, fire officials have said. “There was no power, no heat source, nothing at all,” Fair Haven Police Chief William Humphries said. Jake Helm of Fair Haven had purchased the property at a tax sale and was in the process of cleaning it out while figuring out what to do with it, Humphries noted.
Former dairy farmer appointed to fill representative seat
Terry Norris, once a dairy farmer and photographer, now a Fort Ticonderoga Ferry employee, has accepted Gov. Phil Scott’s appointment to fill the Vermont House seat for the Addison-Rutland District, vacated by Alyson Eastman when she became deputy secretary of agriculture in January. In making the appointment, Scott said, “I’m glad to have identified someone with a passion for representing the interests of the people of Shoreham, Orwell, Whiting and Benson and who understands the economic and affordability challenges Vermonters in the region are facing.”
Pawlet Select Board considers solar project, marketing
PAWLET—Bhima Nitta of Power Guru in North Bennington spoke to the Pawlet Select Board about the potential for a photovoltaic array at the Pawlet landfill, Jan 31. He estimated that a site there could produce 2,568,000 kWh/year. The estimated cost for the project is $1,250,000 with a lifespan of 25 years. A smaller array could meet the needs of the town hall, library, Mettawee Community School and town garages, saving the town $6,603 a year.
Rutland Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Lyle Jepson and Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Cohen visited Pawlet to promote a regional marketing plan. Its goal is to reverse population decline and its economic impact by marketing the high quality of life in Rutland County, dispelling the myth that there are no jobs and boosting tourism. The planners are asking towns to chip in monetarily to the effort.
Wireless service unsatisfactory
MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS—Nora Rubenstein and David Munyak brought their dissatisfaction with Middletown Springs’ wireless connectivity to the Select Board’s attention Feb. 9. Since the system was installed nearly three years ago through the Vermont Council on Rural Development, there have been numerous breaks in service but not major outages. The designated technician claims the problem stems from VTEL, while VTEL claims the problem is post-router. One possible remedy is contracting with a different service technician. Patty Kenyon will make contacts to investigate possible contractors.
An unusual ice storm has driven the town to use an unusually large quantity of sand and salt. The town has already ordered additional supplies of 400 yards of sand from Chet McCullen and 50 tons of salt from Cargill.
Benson physical ed students are learning floor hockey. Benson sixth-graders have been reading “Counting on Grace” by Elizabeth Winthrop and thinking about what acting courageously means. Seventh-graders are reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, while eighth-graders are close to finishing “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck.
Benson sixth-grade students have been learning about early river-based civilizations and are thinking about organization and structure. They are studying ancient civilizations to determine if they were more civilized than today’s society, less than today’s, or equally civilized.
The high number of weather-related school closures has already affected the school calendar for the rest of the year in the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union. In an effort to assure that students receive the correct number of contact days, the March 17 Teacher Professional Development Day will be a regular day for students.
Castleton TV studio gets donation
CASTLETON—WCAX recently donated two used news desks to the television studio at Castleton University after setting up its own news set. The donation includes a short stand-up desk plus a curved sit-down news desk, scheduled to be painted “Castleton green.” Professor Robert Gershon said nearly 40 students are taking video-related classes during spring semester.