Editor’s note: This article is by Lou Varricchio, editor of the Sun. It is republished here with permission.
RIPTON, Vt. — An out-of-state visitor to the greater Middlebury area may think the “Brave Little Town” lawn signs they see in abundance around the area are promoting a new motion picture. Well, they’d be wrong. The signs are urging local voters of the Addison Central School District to vote “yes” in letting Ripton School out of the district.
According to Save Our Schools. LLC, a Vermont citizenry advocate for home rule for schools, after two years of effort to engage the school board in “creative solutions,” Ripton residents just couldn’t come to grips that their elementary school would be closed. On Jan. 12, Ripton town residents voted to leave the Addison Central School District.
How likely are voters to approve Ripton’s secession on March 2? Judging by anecdotal evidence, fortune may smile on the brave little town. When it comes to centralized control of schools, many Vermonters recoil, although ironically, across the state many voters tend to support top-down government control.
On Town Meeting Day, March 2, voters in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham, and Weybridge will decide if Ripton can leave and keep the school open.
Save Our Schools maintains that a “yes” vote will see no significant change to school taxes. The appeal within the school district has been largely emotional with some mention of taxes: “Help keep our youngest closest to home,” a recent mass-mailed palm card claims. “Each town should control the fate of its own school.”
Ripton School has been lauded by parents and other town residents as having a safe learning environment; it is clearly woven into the basic fabric of this rural Addison County community. The mountain school touts the motto of “Be safe, be kind, work hard, and work together”.
Save Our Schools also claims that “tuitioning” students to Middlebury Union Middle School or Middlebury Union High School would continue Ripton’s financial contributions to the school district, although specifics are unclear.