To the editor: In school merger, money is not the only issue

Bells, whistles, and other distractions aside, Mount Holly and Ludlow residents are again being asked if they are willing to see Black River High School close its doors, and again money is an issue.

The school tax rate appears to decrease when there is no local high school, but much of that decrease is the removal of transportation costs. The taxpayer with no school-age children may save money, but students still have to get to a school so the transportation cost is borne by their parents. This impacts lower income families disproportionately. Much of our strength as a nation has been built on a free education. When we make it harder for some to get that education, we are changing that basic premise.

It is being suggested that receiving schools will send buses. They may, but it is unlikely that they will travel the hills to find the students as our local buses do. If our school board decides to pick up older students along with elementary school students and deliver them to centralized locations to meet the other school buses, some of the tax savings will disappear. Meanwhile, at least an hour a day would be added to each student’s current ride time.

Apparently there is no other Life Skills special education class in near-by districts. The number of profoundly disabled students who require this type of education varies from year to year, but if Black River HS is closed such a class would still have to be found for them. If this class is far away, the district can be responsible for paying for the student’s board as well as tuition. This could deplete any expected tax break.

Not only does local control go out the window, but closing a school guarantees an economic decline for that community. Ludlow would probably feel that decline more than Mount Holly.

Black River High School thinks in terms of our students. The high school sees Mount Holly and Ludlow as one community. The question will be, does Mount Holly see itself as a part of that community, and will Ludlow reaffirm the strength of that community.

Carol Ballou

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  1. We value all comments from community members in Ludlow and Mount Holly and realize not everyone will agree with us. We appreciate those who engage in a discussion with us and voice concerns, because it will always make us see issues from angles we may not have considered and improve on what we are trying to do.

    Carol makes a good point about the contradiction regarding the cost of education in an independent school.

    One of the largest costs of education is paying staff. Independent schools have more flexibility in utilizing existing staff that may only be certified in one area but are also very capable to teach in other areas. In general, less staff will likely be needed to operate the school. And while we encourage all existing staff to apply, we are not saying that all existing staff will end up working at a new school. Many may not want to.

    I also think that it could be an asset and opportunity to be able to use tax dollars to attend OMS, it will now put the attendance of such a school into the reach of more people than before. And the difference could be made up with scholarships and grants so that more kids who previously might not have been able to afford OMS, now might have a chance to.

    All options have advantages and drawbacks and we have to evaluate those realistically and make the best choice we can with the knowledge we have. Keep talking to us please!!