What do we want for the future of our children? That’s what two communities in Orange County are figuring out.
Last July, the Chelsea and Tunbridge School Districts merged under Vermont’s Act 46, forming the First Branch Unified School District. Now, people in both towns are trying to determine what the new merged school board’s priorities should be.
The district is nearing the end of its first school year with two buildings, the Chelsea Public School and the Tunbridge Central School. Both are K-through-8 buildings. Chelsea had a high school, but it closed last year because of the merger.
Lisa Manning Floyd of Bethel chaired the White River Valley Supervisory Union Act 46 merger committee, and she led Tuesday night’s vision session for the First Branch school board.
“There was a lot of flexibility, and basically there were six of us who got into that merger committee and peeled away, and some different structures were formed,” she said.
About 20 people from Chelsea and Tunbridge got together at the vision session to spell out what priorities they think their new school board should have.
“It comes down to the things that they value about their existing schools, and how we move forward and create one vision for the First Branch Unified District,” Manning Floyd said.
They mentioned several qualities both schools share that should be preserved. For example, each has strong roots in its respective community, with much of the staff of each school being graduates of that school. The schools are also small enough for the staff to know every child’s name, which minimizes the chance of students being ignored.
The First Branch school board has also been considering merging the Tunbridge and Chelsea middle school programs under one roof.
“They come back to it and they have discussion about it, but I think that at this point in time, they just want to look at what the vision would be for their district,” Manning Floyd said.
No one from the community who attended the vision session was willing to speak with us on camera.