Morgan, Holland Schools Tackle Rising Costs, Fewer Kids

MORGAN/HOLLAND, VT - The smaller schools in the district are looking at different options to handle rising costs and low student population.E. Taylor Hatton School in Morgan has a student population of 33 for kindergarten through sixth grade. The school's administration is concerned about meeting the students’ needs both socially as well as academically, said Interim Principal Miriam Benson. For example, there is no technology teacher at the school.At Town Meeting this year, Morgan residents will be presented with three options. Option one is to close the school and designate the Derby Elementary School, with transportation provided, as the towns school of choice for its students. Morgan would pay tuition, Benson explained.Option two is to close the school and have public school choice; each student would decide which public school to attend. No transportation is provided with this second option. Morgan would pay tuition.The third option is to keep the school open and meet the state quality standard guidelines.The school board has been discussing options for years as school enrollment continues to decline and costs continue to rise.A public meeting on the three options was held in January. A second public hearing will be held on Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. at the school. More detailed information will be discussed at the meeting including financial aspects of each option.Holland Elementary School, another small school in the district, has formed a committee to gather information to present to its board on different options for the school.A decrease in funding, as well as meeting the quality school guidelines, are issues for the school, Principal Linda Phelan said.Student enrollment is at 75 for kindergarten through sixth grade.The school board has approved a budget of $1,050,800. The proposed budget is up more than $45,000 over the current budget. A decrease in state as well as federal funding is the contributing factor, said Phelan.The costs continue to rise as funding decreases, she explained.“It’s a tough thing,” she said. Phelan talked about how much the school means to the community, and that it is a community gathering place.The committee will present information to the Holland School board on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.