Verifying residency in St. Johnsbury

To the Editor:

I am writing regarding the editorial that was in the paper on July 19 regarding the issue of verifying residency for high school students at Johnsbury. While I appreciate the concern expressed for the well-being of our town's economy and culture, I do not believe that our School District should ignore cases where there is a legitimate question regarding the legal residency of families and students. At the same time, we recognize that almost all of the students we support are genuine St. Johnsbury residents, and that we should not cause undue discomfort or require excessive paperwork from citizens of our town. The district is working hard to develop procedures that allow us to meet these goals.

Residency is legally defined in Vermont Statutes Annotated. Here are some details:

1. V.S.A. 1075 (a) (3): "...'resident' of the state and of a school district means a natural person who is domiciled in the school district and who, if temporarily absent, demonstrates and intent to maintain a principal dwelling place in the school district indefinitely and to return there, coupled with an act or acts consistent with that intent."

2.V.S.A. 1075 (a) (3): "If a person removed to another town with the intention of remaining there indefinitely, that person shall be considered to have lost residency in the town in which the person originally resided even though the person intends to return at some future time. "

3. V.S.A. 1075 (a) (3): "A person may have only one residence at a given time."

Based on these statutes, it is my understanding that the St. Johnsbury School District should question residency in cases where there is significant doubt that parents intend to make a principal dwelling place in the school district indefinitely. We should question cases where there is evidence that the parent moved to St. Johnsbury with the sole motive of having their child's tuition paid for by the town while they are maintaining other homes elsewhere, and where there is evidence that the parents intend to continue living in both homes while the children are in school, or to return to the dwelling where they previously resided after the period of their child's education.

It is my understanding that, as Superintendent of the School District, I have a responsibility to the town to ensure that the laws that govern the provision of education in this state are obeyed. This is the course I will pursue unless I am informed otherwise by the citizens of the town that I serve.

Dr. Margaret Bledsoe

Superintendent, St. Johnsbury School District

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