NEWPORT - North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent Dr. Robert Kern announced to the high school board that a meeting between state officials and area school administrators will be held on October 24th to discuss the economic development plans spearheaded by Bill Stenger, co-owner of Jay Peak Resort.
“We need the state to help us collect data to determine what impact all of this development will have on our school system,” said Dr. Kern. “It's overwhelming the information we need. We'll have a mix of families who are moving permanently to the area versus those who will be staying temporarily. How many new homes will be built, and in which towns?”
Noting that Stenger's proposal represents the biggest development project in the state, he said, “We have some capacity for reasonable growth, but we don't know where it's going to be, and that may have an impact on whether our elementary schools have the capacity to handle a larger student population.”
Dr. Kern wants the state to help with collecting data, logistics planning, and coordinating the development of education and training programs for the new jobs that will be in demand over the next three to five years.
The development of a trained workforce includes working with post secondary education institutions including the adult North Country Career Center, Community College of Vermont, Lyndon State College, Johnson State College and the University of Vermont.
The purpose of the meeting is for state agencies including the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Economic Development Agency and others to work with educational institutions to coordinate training programs, provide tuition grants for students, develop curriculum, and provide estimates of population growth and its effect on area schools.
“It's critical that we set a time line to develop skill sets, training programs and establish a framework to coincide with companies hiring new workers,” Dr. Kern stated.
Board member Richard Cartee, agreeing with Dr. Kern, stated, “If we want to keep our kids in the area, we need to develop these programs soon. We also need to let the students know what these new jobs are, get them to start thinking about other careers. The timing is critical; we need to be ready when these new businesses open.”
Cartee also noted that as the development plans get underway, people will begin to see the results of these changes through an expanding tax base. “It makes it a lot easier to go to the taxpayers and ask for $5 or $10 if they can see the growth is happening.”
Currently the high school and career center each have created strategic planning groups with the goal of looking 5 and 10 years ahead to create a plan for education equity, renovate facilities, integrate new technology into the classroom and improve management systems.