*Originally posted on Front Porch Forum
I am writing in response to Superintendent Patrick Reen's recent proposal for MAUSD schools. I echo deep concerns about his proposed plan, and in particular the way in which his proposal aims to be achieved. As others have expressed, the proposal exploits a loophole in the MAUSD Charter and Act 46 that would ultimately disempower towns. The proposed "re-purposing" of Lincoln Community School would, in effect, circumvent a town vote on whether to close our school.
My family is new to this community; we moved to Vermont just under three years ago. We have three young children—our oldest is in first grade at LCS. We were drawn to Lincoln in no small part because of both the preschool and elementary school, which were described to us by community members as "beloved" parts of this town. Through LCS and the Lincoln Community Preschool, we have been folded into a vibrant community—we run into our children's teachers at the General Store and the library and local swimming spots. Already our daughter feels known here, already she has a strong sense of place. She is excited to go to school everyday, where she finds herself in a small classroom with teachers who know her well, who teach experientially, many of whom are a part of this community themselves. We have been endlessly grateful for LCS's ability to adapt in a global pandemic, to continue to teach our children, support our families, and uphold our community.
We are scared for what closing LCS means for the future of this community and its ability to draw people here. The superintendent's plan to "re-purpose" LCS will have the same effect on our community as closing our school—we will lose our incredible teachers, we will lose the daily community connections that are so alive within the borders of this small town, we will lose the appeal this community has to draw and keep young families here, and we fear that down the road we will face the economic ramifications of school closure: reduced home values and additional economic stress. This proposal, which in effect closes our school, is short-sighted and detrimental to the long-term vitality of our town.
Superintendent Reen recently said at a community meeting that his job is to advocate for the students. It is hard to reconcile that statement with what he is proposing happens to Lincoln's students. It is hard for me to see his plan as something other than a failure to find creative ways to invest in our community, in our kids, in our town. This is especially true regarding the loophole his proposal exploits in attempting to circumvent our community's voice in this decision. Our voices are the bedrock of our democracy at every level of society. What lesson is more valuable to teach our children?