Residents of Wardsboro risk having no say in the closing of their school if the merger revote passes on May 1.
Article 15 of the consolidation states: No schools will be closed within its boundaries after the effective date of merger unless the electorate of the town in which the school is located consents to closure. However, a new Dover/Wardsboro unified school board would have the authority on its own to delete or change this or any article in the agreement.
The only way to guarantee a town vote before closing a school is to include said provision in the warning, which currently it does not.
In addition to the threat of survival for our school, a revote to support the merger will put Wardsboro at a distinct disadvantage. Dover has twice the student population of Wardsboro, and after the 2020 census, will most likely have the controlling votes on the new board. Given one town’s superior position, it is difficult to believe that the concerns of both will be given equal weight.
Even before the next census, the merger agreement, as currently presented, poses risks. Dover and Wardsboro are distinct communities with individual histories, cultures and preferences (such as sending school designation and supportive transportation). As the school is the heart of each town, any merger that blends school districts must honor the unique character of each community, which can only be accomplished by an equal partnership of governance.
Much good work has been done by the study committee members, which need not be lost with a no vote. We can build on their accomplishment to create school governance that safeguards our small schools and gives equal power to participating towns.
To begin our task of securing a school district that genuinely protects our children, our school and our town, I ask Wardsboro on May 1, to vote no, again.