The real question before Concord voters on March 6

To the Editor:

Once again Concord will vote on March 6 whether to close or keep open the Concord High School. However, the real question the voters are faced with is not should we keep open or close the high school but how do we adequately educate our resident high school children. From school board member's statements to the principal's identified areas needing improvement, to people on both sides of the issue, the one point everyone seems to overwhelmingly agree on is that the high school is broke and in need of serious repair.

With declining enrollment numbers that are down 46 percent since 2007 to an all-time low of 40 Concord resident students as of November 2011, a history of school administrator turn-over, extreme bullying and student behavior issues, limited course offerings, and overall economic advantages to high school closure, the time is now to understand and consider the facts. "The goal of any educational system should be to ensure that all students master skills and gain the appropriate knowledge in order to become successful adults. All students start school with different needs and backgrounds, and it is essential for schools to be able to provide them with the appropriate time and skills to become successful," expressed Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca in a June 2011 opinion piece titled, A Time To Reflect On The Past Year.

Children Ask For More Opportunities --

After expressing concerns about bullying and misplaced documentation relating to their child's educational needs, one set of local parents requested and were granted tuition reimbursement in November to send their daughter to St. Johnsbury Academy for the remainder of the 2012 school year and the 2012-2013 school year. By granting this request, the school board agreed that Concord High School was unable to meet this student's needs. This is not an isolated case and the Concord School Board has received and granted other requests. Currently eight parents are requesting tuition reimbursement elsewhere for the 2012--2013 school year.

Other local parents, whose tuition reimbursement request for their child was denied, felt so strongly about their son's education that they elected to pay the 2011-2012 St. Johnsbury Academy tuition of $13,875 out of pocket. When their child came home and asked for the opportunity to go elsewhere for high school, they knew it was time to make an important decision. Their son wasn't being challenged in his classes, had no clubs or programs beyond a few sports to choose from and spent his day with a limited number of peers who had very different interests. In addition, a prior school administrator had clearly told this family that Concord High School was not able to meet their son's educational needs. This child is now thriving at St. Johnsbury Academy with offerings like Engineering Class and Robotics Club that allow him to learn about subjects he is interested in with peers who have the same interests.

Evaluate The Alternative

If voters elect to keep the high school open, how are we going to meet the needs of all or even most of the high school students, turn this institution around, and move forward as a community? Is everyone willing to open their pocketbooks and calendars to invest the money and time needed to provide expanded course offerings, foreign languages, trade programs like woodshop and electrical, advanced classes and clubs? The school cannot remain at the status quo; it will take millions of dollars and unlimited hours from the Concord community to fix the Concord High School. By voting to keep the high school open, voters would be clearly agreeing to do what it takes financially, and volunteering untold hours, to try and improve the high school.

Vision For The Future:

The other alternative is to vote to close the high school and immediately provide our resident high school children the education they deserve in one of the numerous neighboring schools who have the capacity and are ready to meet their needs. The figures show that this can be done for relatively the same or less tax dollars than we spend today. This option allows the school, new principal and town the opportunity to focus on the Concord K-8 program. By modeling Waterford's K-8 offerings, along with working toward expanded programs for the younger children, the school and the town has the opportunity to go in a new and exciting direction.

On March 6, it will be up the voters to decide how to adequately educate our resident children in the future, but either way voters will be making a commitment to change because the school cannot continue in the downward spiral it has been headed for far too long.

Cynthia Stuart and Harold Lunnie

Concord, Vt.

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