Home Commentary Roxbury Needs More Time and a Thoughtful Plan

Roxbury Needs More Time and a Thoughtful Plan

Photo courtesy of RVS.
Editor’s Note: Roxbury resident Hannah Bryant submitted the following as a commentary to The Bridge, and as a letter to the Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools board.

I recognize the demographic and budget trends make closing Roxbury Village School seem inevitable. However, the push to close the school at the end of this school year, only three months away, is shortsighted and rushed. Proceeding without a thoughtful plan, without solid budget numbers and without sufficient time for families and students to process the change is likely to lead to long term costs and damaged relationships. 

The district owes its teachers, its board, the voters, and Roxbury families a longer runway leading to this major change. We’ll only get one chance to do this right. Please work with us to keep Roxbury Village School open for the ’24–’25 school year, as our communities and teachers partner to prepare for a graceful closure of the school, and incorporation of Roxbury’s youngest children into UES.

The district needs to study how to handle the closure thoughtfully to minimize harm to children, working families, and the relationships between the Roxbury and Montpelier communities. It needs to develop a busing schedule and plan that ensures Roxbury students can get to and from school on time, rested, fed, ready to learn and able to participate in after-school activities. The current busing system and schedule are untenable and must be revised before adding more, and younger, children. It needs a plan for building use, maintenance, and/or transition of the building to the town of Roxbury. The district needs time to develop a budget that facilitates all of this and to communicate that to the community.

Voters deserve to understand the true cost savings and new expenses associated with closing Roxbury Village School. It’s misleading for voters to assume that the district will immediately delete all costs associated with the building and not incur additional expenses related to Roxbury students. Voters deserve time to consider how the multimillion-dollar asset that we own in the Roxbury school building can best continue to serve current and future students.

Montpelier schools are landlocked, vulnerable to flooding and aging infrastructure, whereas the Roxbury school building offers opportunity for growth, new programming, and resilience. 

Roxbury families need time to plan for their school to close, and they need questions like bus schedules, aftercare availability and location, answered long in advance of the closure. Roxbury’s most vulnerable families are least able to quickly adapt to a local school closure. Many Roxbury families have already taken jobs or changed shifts to facilitate their children’s current bus and aftercare schedules. Some Roxbury families don’t have a car at all. Eighty percent of RVS families send their kids to aftercare at the Village School until 5 p.m. For these families, learning their children will now go to school in Montpelier, or have a different bus or aftercare, may require major life changes.

Most importantly, Roxbury children need time to plan for this transition. Many of these children started their school years with COVID school closures and changing policies. Their early  elementary years have already been disrupted and they are now showing strong signs of catching up socially and academically. Another major disruption could derail this progress, particularly if the speed of the closure causes major stress within families.

As parents and teachers, every day we are guiding our children to be thoughtful in their actions and decisions. We remind them to consider the consequences before acting. We teach them to weigh pros and cons, and we model empathy and equity. We owe it to them to model this same careful judgment, consideration of consequences and well-developed planning for such a major change that will impact their lives so drastically.

Thank you for your incredible service and consideration of these challenging issues.