by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — There are no downsides to the Roxbury-Montpelier School District merger according to two representatives from the Act 46 study committee. Montpelier voters are scheduled to vote the merger up or down at a special city meeting June 20.
Taxes would go down for property owners in both towns, according to committee chair Jon Guiffre of Roxbury. He was joined by committee member Steve Hingtgen of the Montpelier Public Schools board of school commissioners to address the Montpelier Rotary Club June 12 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel’s Montpelier Room.
Hingtgen also pointed out that the Montpelier Public Schools district has millions of dollars in bonded debt while Roxbury has zero. Speaking of Roxbury residents, he said “they will be paying our debt off for us.”
Under the merger, roughly 55 students will be sent from Roxbury to Montpelier’s Main Street Middle School and Montpelier High School. This would increase the Montpelier headcount and bring in tuition money. Those students would be removed from the revenue stream now mostly going to Northfield High School and U-32 Middle and High School. No Roxbury students with free choice currently attend Montpelier High School. This is because U-32 actively recruits Roxbury students, while Montpelier High School does not, Hingtgen said.
However, Roxbury students who are already enrolled in other schools would be allowed to stay at those schools for the rest of their education under a ‘grandfather’ clause. Mandatory enrollment in Montpelier Public Schools would only begin for Roxbury students now entering the sixth grade, Hingtgen said.
The benefit for Roxbury on that front is that the tuition would cost less for their district than it does now, Guiffre said. He also said the middle schoolers would get a “broader, deeper” experience at Main Street Middle School than at Roxbury Village School. Roxbury is currently a school-choice town, which means after students move up through of the Roxbury Village School (grades pre-K through 6), they are free to go to any school they choose at the town’s expense.
As for a merger among Montpelier, Roxbury and U-32? Not impossible. Hingtgen said that once the Washington Central Supervisory Union “straightens out” its own multiple district configuration, a merger could conceivably happen.
There is “no identifiable downside,” Hingtgen said. “It is a win-win all the way around. The risks are nil or very low to Montpelier.”