This article first appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
PLYMOUTH — The concept of a single school status was discussed this week by Select Board members who agreed to write a letter to the school board in its support.
“I’d be happy to put a letter together,” said board member Russ Tonkin. “They need to take some kind of positive action.”
At a special meeting on June 30, 2014, Board Chair Ralph Michael related that he had spoken with Doug Lai at the Vermont Tax Department who advised that Plymouth is a “total choice” town when it comes to the school selection of its resident children.
Lai had also noted that the school budget has increased by 185 percent. The dollar amount in the past was 98 cents as compared with $1.77 now. The per pupil cost has increased from $13,000 to approximately $18,000 which, according to Michael, is above the base so the town gets penalized.
Up to now, town residents including renters have been able to choose their school. But the Select Board is strongly suggesting that the school board choose one school. The town can join a union, according to Michael, but there needs to be a town wide vote for that to happen.
“Plymouth is a total school choice town, so resident children can go anywhere in this county and the town is responsible for making up what goes above the base grand,” Michael said at Monday night’s meeting. “So, many kids are coming to town because of that but the result is that we’re getting more students for whom we need to raise money.”
Lai mentioned at the June 30 meeting that the student enrollment in Plymouth has increased 3.5 percent every year since the closure of the school even though Select Board members questioned this figure.
Michael added that a current statewide dilemma is that Vermont has the lowest student-teacher ratio in the country due to declining student population.
“But the number of teachers and the cost of running a school doesn’t change, so the expense per student is very, very high and keeps going up every year,” said Michael.
Tonkin will write to School Board Chair Julie Dupont to suggest that the board look into limiting the choice of town residents to one school.
“We need to see if the school board can do away with school choice,” Michael said.