School District Merger Draft Under Discussion In Elmore, Morristown

Aug 12, 2015

On Wednesday afternoon, school directors from Elmore and Morristown are holding a community information and input meeting on a draft set of articles of agreement for a combined school district. The school district merger will be on the ballot in both towns in November.

Voters in both towns agreed to study a merger at town meeting last March. The study committee consists of members of the Elmore and Morristown school boards. Currently, Elmore educates at least a portion of its first, second and third graders at Vermont's only operating one-room schoolhouse. Other Elmore students in pre-K through sixth grade attend Morristown's elementary and middle schools.

Staring in seventh grade, Elmore students have school choice, meaning they can attend any public, independent or non-parochial private school. However, at least 80 percent of Elmore seventh through twelfth graders consistently choose to attend Morristown's Peoples Academy Middle and High School.

Under the terms of the draft articles of agreement, the one-room Elmore Lake School would remain open for four years, unless the voters of Elmore choose to close the school. After that there is no guarantee the school will continue to operate. Also under the draft agreement, Elmore secondary students would loose access to their existing level of school choice. In exchange, the articles state Elmore taxpayers would see a significant tax savings while Morristown taxpayers would avoid facing future tax rate increases or program cuts.

While the merger study received significant support in both towns on Town Meeting Day, there is a group of Elmore residents interested in other options. The group calls itself the Elmore Education Committee. In June it started a blog called Education in Elmore to follow the progress of the merger study committee. And the group has invited Lyndon Institute Headmaster Daren M. Houck to speak at the Elmore Town Hall about "the benefits and the challenges of being an independent school," according to a post on Morrisville's Front Porch Forum. The post states:

Mr. Houck currently serves as Headmaster of Lyndon Institute. He previously served as Head of School for The Mountain School at Winhall for 10 years, an independent school in Bondville, VT. He is owner of Green Mt. Educational Consulting, was a founding board of trustees member of the Village School of North Bennington, and is an active member of the Independent Schools of Northern New England and the Vermont Independent Schools Association board of directors.

Daren Houck is scheduled to speak at the Elmore Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18. The Elmore-Morristown merger study committee meets today at 5 p.m. at the Morristown Elementary School library.