Ludlow group plans ‘life beyond a no vote’ on Mill River merger

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

BRAIN members discuss the options for educating students if Ludlow votes no on the proposed Mill River merger. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

About 20 members of the loosely organized group that wants to keep Black River High School open met at the Ludlow Community Center on Thursday evening to plan for how children could be educated if the town rejects the proposed merger of the Ludlow and Mount Holly with the Mill River district.

Talking about “life beyond a ‘no’ vote,” members of the Black River Area Innovation Network — BRAIN — looked at a menu of options for providing education to narrow it down to one.

The group started with four options including:

  1. Closing Black River as a public school and reopening it as a private one;
  2. A restructuring that would look for ways to change the way the school works to improve education and make the schools sustainable;
  3. A PreK through 12 system that could link with the new Quarry Valley district or a similar group of stand alone districts and, finally,
  4.  A Black River 2.0 that would simply ramp up the programs offered by the high school with the goal of attracting tuition students.

Attendees suggested that the 2.0 option could add more STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — as well as internships and wilderness programs among others. Kelly Tarbell, who led the evening’s meeting, said that “BR 2.0”might not be adopted on its own, but could be part of one of the other options.

The group looked at the feasibility of each option, identifying problems that would have to be overcome or perhaps would be too difficult to solve and concluded that the independent school option was the one that had the best chance of going forward.

According to proponents, closing the high school would result in making Mount Holly and Ludlow “choice” towns. A new private school at Black River would be among choices that could also include Mill River and Green Mountain high schools.  By concentrating on academic and extracurricular offerings that would be attractive to parents and students, they suggested that the new Black River school could become a strong choice for tuitioned students. Outdoor education and sports such as hockey were among the offerings discussed.

The group pointed to Burr and Burton Academy, the Compass School and the Okemo Mountain School as models and decided to find a consultant to get a sense of the scope of work needed to establish a new school.

BRAIN members spoke about organizing a public meeting for Monday, May 22 to get the word out about their efforts. An information meeting on the vote put on by the Ludlow and Mount Holly school boards is scheduled for the following night at 6 p.m. at the Ludlow Elementary School and the vote on Ludlow and Mount Holly merging with Mill River is on Tuesday, May 30. Several of those attending the meeting complained that the tone of the information meeting held by the school boards on Tuesday May 9 at Mount Holly was biased toward approval of the merger.

The next meeting of the BRAIN group will be held on tonight, Monday May 15 at 6 p.m. at the Ludlow Community Center.


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