Castleton school merger idea raises questions
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | March 23,2013
CASTLETON — The Castleton-Hubbardton School Board will research the legal and financial questions raised by a petition seeking to consolidate Castleton Elementary School and Castleton Village School.
Chairman Tom Spangenberg said the petition, presented by Castleton resident Frank Taggart, seeks to merge the two schools in one building to save the towns money in the long run.
Taggart wants the board to close the Village School, which houses grades 6-8, and sell the building for $1 to the town of Castleton for use as town offices.
Spangenberg said the petition, by law, does not require the School Board to take any action — but the board will take it under advisement and research the issue.
“How would you unwind the deal? How will this affect Hubbardton?” Spangenberg said.
He said the town of Hubbardton, which he represents, has a vested interest in the Village School and would need to be compensated if it is ever sold. “This is not only Castleton’s decision,” he said.
The chairman said the board’s attorney will do a title search and determine whether the board can sell the building. According to rumor or legend, he said, the original deed has a condition that the property can only be used for educational purposes.
The concept of combining the elementary and middle schools into one building was contemplated more than two years ago. The School Board at the time determined it would be too expensive.
“It’s the illusion that to close one (school) will save a lot of money — you don’t,” Spangenberg said.
He said science labs, lockers and more would need to be replicated at the elementary school that would cost a lot of money.
Spangenberg said Taggart’s argument that the two schools have seen reduced enrollments, although true historically, is incorrect because more children have been enrolling in the kindergarten and Essential Early Education programs.
“You can’t just look at the student count,” he said. “It’s not flexible.”
If the board’s research finds any viable reason to reconsider consolidating the two schools, Spangenberg said, the board will reconsider it.
“But not because it was mandated by referendum,” he said.
The Castleton-Hubbardton School Board meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month. Its next meeting is April 3.