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A new women’s clothing store has recently opened in downtown Middlebury. Middleton, located at 66 Main Street, is co-owned by Elissa Kestner, owner and manager of Monelle Vermont — two boutique stores in Burlington and Shelburne — and Lisa Phelps, owner of Middlebury salon and spa Parlour.
Burlington citizens will vote on Nov. 8 on a proposed $165 million taxpayer bond to support the demolition of the old Burlington High School and Technical Center buildings and build a new school. Since the discovery that the old building was contaminated with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Burlington High School (BHS) students have been attending classes in a vacant Macy’s store. BHS is Burlington’s only public high school and serves around 1,000 students. In addition to the high school, Burlington Technical Center provides training for workforce development, specifically skills like aviation, design illustration, healthcare sciences and hospital workforces. All students in the Burlington school district attend BHS, and students in 10th and 11th grade can apply to the technical center.
The town of Ripton has decided to remain in the Addison Central School District (ACSD) after a vote at the end of September. After a January 2021 vote to withdraw followed by a year-and-a-half long struggle for the town to establish an independent school district, Ripton residents have now voted to remain in the district that also includes Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
The 19th annual TAM — Trail Around Middlebury — Trek was held this past Sunday, Sept. 18.
The Midd Summer Market launched on May 19, offering the town of Middlebury a place to find artisan goods, fresh produce and local vendors. The market is located at Triangle Park by the fountain, and will continue running until Oct. 6. The market ran every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. during the summer, and now closes at 6 p.m. due to earlier sunsets in the fall. Recently, the market has added live music starting at 5 p.m. at the gazebo on the green to its list of attractions.
For their project titled “Building for Belonging,” Molly Conover ’22, Masud Lewis ’22, Taylor Lovely ’22, Jaab Veskijkul ’22.5 and Galen von Wodtke ’22.5 worked together with SUSU CommUNITY Farm in Newfane, Vermont this spring to support the farm as it grew as well as create a guide to permits needed to build in Vermont.
As temperatures rise in Middlebury, students and locals alike can be seen spending time outside and enjoying the sun, as long walks, icy plunges and hikes become more common. Although one might equate warmer temperatures with ideal hiking conditions, that’s not quite the case, because spring in Vermont often means mud season.
The month of April marks the end of a standard sugarmaking season in Vermont — the weeks when Vermont’s maple syrup producers tap their trees, collect sap and process it for syrup.
Just as shifting Covid-19 policies have affected Middlebury College students, staff and faculty, they have also impacted visitors’ access to certain parts of the college. Recently, outside visitors, including families of students as well as local community members, have been allowed to attend sports games and performing arts events, and the Middlebury College Museum of Art will be open to all as of April 15. These changes create ample opportunities for members of the local community to participate further in college spaces.
Over time, and at an accelerated rate since the beginning of the pandemic, housing prices have generally climbed across the country, and Addison County, Vermont, and Monterey, California — the location of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS), and one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. — are no exceptions. These increases in housing prices intimately affect staff members at both Middlebury campuses, impacting their daily lives, families and quality of life.
Here in Addison County, many may have heard the refrain that retreat from cities in the Northeast during the early stages of the pandemic led to dramatic increases in housing demands and prices. Matthew Curran, Middlebury College’s director of business services, elaborated on this phenomenon. People moving to Addison County in March 2020 were often coming from more expensive cities and could afford to pay well over the asking price or to pay in cash. Now, almost two years later, many of these people have chosen to remain in Addison County.
Though Vermont is typically known for its dairy farms, a completely different type of farm can be found in Brandon, VT — Maple View Farm Alpacas (MVFA).
Over the past several months, anonymous poster-sized images have appeared across the town of Middlebury. There are two graphics, one of the character Mia Wallace from “Pulp Fiction” played by Uma Thurman, and one of two hands grabbing a bottle labeled with the number 40; some include the mysterious letters E M S W I D written along the bottom. In addition to Middlebury, the images have been seen in the town of Vergennes, as well as on Route 7 toward Burlington. The Campus has not received reports of any such images having been seen on campus.
Karen Duguay, executive director of Experience Middlebury, was honored with the Buster Brush Citizen of the Year Award at the annual Addison County Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony on Oct. 28 for her essential contributions to Neighbors, Together (NT), a community action group that supported local Middlebury businesses while the key stages of the Bridge & Rail Project inhibited the flow of traffic through downtown last year. Duguay was also recognized for her work as an administrator through the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP).
Middlebury College is located in a beautiful autumnal environment. Amidst the peaks of the mountains and turning leaves, Midd students bustle through rolling hills to class, practice and meals, but on Halloween and the days leading up to the holiday, what can Middlebury students do to celebrate? From scary to sporty to beautiful, here are The Campus’ recommendations as we go into Halloweekend.
In October, as part of a wider movement among museums to address overlooked or unexamined historical narratives and decolonize their exhibits, the Henry Sheldon Museum will launch its monthly virtual lecture series titled “The Elephant in the Room.” The talks, which are funded by the grant-making body called the Vermont Humanities Council, will be delivered by a group of scholars and curators who are familiar with the untold stories behind the museum’s objects.
The museum’s objective of bringing suppressed historical narratives to the surface is particularly personal because of the relatively egalitarian goals of its founder, Henry Sheldon. The year 2021 marks his 200th birthday, an event that has prompted reflection on the museum’s current goals.
“Sheldon had an interesting position in terms of privilege and class inside museums: he was a collector in the 19th century … but he didn’t have the wealth of the Rockefellers or the Fricks,” Taylor Rossini ’20, a collections associate and grant writer at the museum who contributed to pitching and developing this series, said.
To combat his “outsider” status and the financial constraints that he faced, Sheldon turned his attention to more quotidian artifacts. Rather than importing ceramics from Europe, for example, Sheldon would collect everything around him, including mundane things that others didn’t think were worth saving, like local newspapers or ticket stubs.
Because of Henry Sheldon’s disposition, the museum he founded now has a nearly encyclopedic collection of Middlebury and the surrounding areas in the 19th century.
“This year, we’ve been thinking about how our museum plays into this larger conversation about how museums are these elite cultures, these repositories of incredibly valuable objects, and how our museum doesn’t fit into that mold,” Rossini said. “That’s not something that’s been made very clear.”
Still, despite the museum’s history of preserving artifacts of everyday life, it is still subject to the challenges of bias and prejudice that many museums are grappling with today. “The Elephant in the Room” is an attempt to push that acknowledgment of the gaps in the Sheldon’s collection further. The January talk, for example, will address representation in 19th-century photography. Photographs of people of color in the museum’s collection have previously been left unlabeled, without much investigation into the identities of the individuals depicted in them.
Rossini acknowledged that this is a sign of Sheldon’s own prejudices.
“As egalitarian as we like to make Henry out to be, he was not interested in the stories of non- white, non-Christian contemporaries of his,” Rossini said. “So, we do have big holes in our collection where we have objects that give us a touchstone to tell these stories, but we don’t have information surrounding them to craft these stories.”
The main goal of “The Elephant in the Room” series will then be to address and acquire new approaches to understanding these objects that have gone uncontextualized, as the Sheldon works to decolonize its collections and push conversations on race, gender, class, intersectionality and equity forward.
“We’re hoping that these talks will give us some ideas, inspiration and hopefully, some new approaches that we can apply to our collection,” Rossini said.
The values at the forefront of the “Elephant in the Room” series are ideas growing in importance at museums across America. Museums are working to create meaningful content for the 21st century that serves the people who visit rather than the objects displayed.
“I think the goal with museums and among museum professionals is to stray as far as we can from this idea of museums being the ivory tower on the hill,” Rossini said.
Though this movement is spreading worldwide, its impact is also visible in another museum close to home. Works in the Middlebury College Museum of Art were recently reorganized to reflect thematic arrangement rather than region- or chronology-based design.
Rossini wrote and pitched the grant for the Sheldon Museum series alongside Eva Garcelon-Hart, a research center archivist at the Sheldon and the originator of the series.
“For the last few years many museums, archives and other cultural heritage institutions have been questioning their collecting and curatorial practices in response to social pressures that call and demand broader inclusion, diversity and equity,” Garcelon-Hart wrote in an email to The Campus. “When I was working on exhibits and programming to commemorate [Sheldon’s 200th birthday], I realized that it may be a perfect opportunity to reflect on our current practices to meet the needs and expectations of our increasingly diverse communities.”
After the pandemic hit, all of the museum’s exhibits were adapted to online formats, including webpages featuring photographs and video content. Rossini acknowledged that the switch made it more difficult for the museum’s core audience — namely, older townspeople — to access museum content.
Still, she remains optimistic about transitioning to offering some museum content online for the foreseeable future.
“A challenge has always been to broaden our audience as much as possible, and moving online did help with that. Younger folks, younger families, who are more comfortable with virtual content made their way to us and have stuck with us now, either through visitation or becoming members, even as we’ve reopened,” Rossini said.
As of July 2021, the museum has reopened for visitation, but because the series — as part of its design to involve as many people in the conversation as possible — convenes speakers from many different locations, the talks will all be held online.
The first lecture in the series, “Living with Death,” is about how to create meaning in a time of loss. The lecture will be on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m., and is open to all. It will be a conversation between the artist and writer Dario Robleto, and Assistant Professor of American Studies Ellery Foutch from the college. More information can be found at www.henrysheldonmusum.org/events.
Monument Farms Dairy has undergone years of change since becoming the college’s leading dairy provider in the 1950s. While this year was more tumultuous than most, the farm handled its challenges as it typically does: with a vigorous commitment to quality milk, family-style.
Monument was started in the 1930s when Richard James began bottling milk in his basement to sell along a home delivery route. The farm has remained in family ownership ever since and is now owned and operated by the third and fourth generations of dairy farmers.
Dan James is part of that fourth generation and leads sales and distribution at Monument.
“My generation, the fourth generation, is heavily invested in things and are in their early 30s, and we have the mindset of not selling out to the big guys,” James said.
This attitude has endured throughout years of growth at Monument, as their farm, plant and number of clients have grown. Monument Dairy includes both a farm and a processing plant, which allows the team to supervise all parts of the process. The processing plant is located on James Road, while the farm is a third of a mile away on Weybridge Road.
Since Monument is a smaller farm compared to other dairy producers, growth tends to happen slowly, as they must take time to save up to make large renovations, such as buying larger holding tanks for milk or expanding their barn. In addition, any large increase in production must start from the ground up, as it requires growing more crops and raising more cows, a process that takes time.
Jon Rooney has been the plant manager at Monument Farm since the 1980s and has seen his fair share of growth at the farm.
“Our competitors, all they really need to do is order in another tank-load of milk, whereas we’ve got to grow the crops and grow the cows,” Rooney said.
“[These top-to-bottom operations] force us to grow slowly, which is actually I think a benefit, because it would be really easy to take a bunch of customers and kind of go hog-wild, and all of a sudden you really quickly find your weak points,” James said. “We tier up slowly, and it seems to work.”
Part of this growth has been aided by the farm’s relationship to the college, which began 65 years ago when Monument began selling milk to the college dining halls.
According to Rooney, college students used to drink two to three times more milk than they do today. He attributes it to several changes that the dining hall has made, including the inclusion of several alternative milk options. The dining halls currently offer almond and oat milk along with dairy milk.
In addition, Rooney cited changes to the size of glasses and the removal of trays from the dining halls as key factors that reduced milk consumption.
“First off, the college stepped down to smaller glasses, because the bigger glasses that they had in the dining hall could also fit a 12 oz. beer really well, so they kept [disappearing],” Rooney said. According to Rooney, smaller glasses meant students would take less milk each time.
“At the same time, they did away with the trays because they were getting used for sleds and stuff,” said Rooney. “All of sudden, you need one hand to carry your milk, and so it gets left behind.”
Weathering the Pandemic:
According to Rooney, the dairy industry easily “backs up,” meaning that changes in demand or supply can have repercussions throughout the whole system. According to Rooney and James, milk consumption initially decreased during Covid-19 as institutions like schools and restaurants closed temporarily, which caused several farmers, including Monument, to dump milk that they could not sell.
Sales of milk then picked up as people began buying excess milk. Cross-country networks couldn’t keep up with the sudden demand for milk, so stores limited the quantity of products that each customer could purchase.
“The logistics of it — they couldn’t get it to the places fast enough so stores were limiting their quantities so that they wouldn’t run out of stock,” James said. “Due to our situation, we could’ve increased our deliveries because we’re smaller scale.”
The pandemic also caused milk prices to drop by around 40% overnight. To make up for lower milk prices, the USDA gave dairy farmers financial assistance, and farmers, including Monument, were able to receive assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Covid-19 also gave Monument Farms the chance to introduce an online portal allowing customers to buy products in advance. This interface replaced the previous system, which required customers to place orders in person on site for the next delivery.
“People’s mindset about change is very hard to overcome,” James said, alluding to some hesitancy about the change.
With everything already changing due to Covid-19, however, customers were more willing to make the switch. “Just the fact that everything was changing at the same time meant that it was a smooth introduction to that,” James said.
Even though Covid-19 brought its fair share of hardship to Monument, Rooney found it comforting that milk is still valued.
“I was actually kind of relieved to see that a lot more people than I thought would consider milk to be one the essentials — I mean, besides toilet paper,” Rooney said.
Future of Dairy
While the pandemic may have temporarily reaffirmed the demand for milk, the future of dairy still seems uncertain.
Dairy has become a topic of concern in recent years, including for the Lake Champlain Citizen Advisory Committee and candidates for governor. Most of the discussions center the environmental impacts of dairy and the economic viability of the industry.
“The ones who are vocal get elected into office, and all of sudden there’s a political viewpoint that everything is changing,” James said. “Vermont farmers who have been around forever just put their heads down and continue to work and aren’t given a voice.”
A 2018 study found that the production of one glass of dairy milk creates almost three times as much greenhouse gas as a glass of plant-based milk. Most of this greenhouse gas is emitted in the form of methane, which is released by cows when they first digest their food and whenever manure is handled.
Plant-based milk presents other environmental challenges. Pesticides used in the production of almond milk have proven to be harmful to bee colonies, for example, and the production of rice milk requires massive amounts of water and also releases methane into the air.
Monument Farms has implemented some changes to address environmental concerns. The farm recycles the manure produced by cows by feeding it into an anaerobic digester, which then produces enough electricity to power the entire farm and processing plant. Digested manure is then sifted through a mechanical separator, which separates solids that can then be used for bedding or sold to the public.
Rooney acknowledges that dairy farming can pose challenges to the environment but is optimistic about dairy’s ability to adapt to changing standards.
“Every farmer we know is totally invested in their environmental impact and always adopting new techniques to reduce their impact or turn it into positive impacts,” Rooney said. “I think that dairy people appreciate that they’re under the microscope and need to adapt to new technologies.”
While the environmental impacts of dairy are an important consideration, the most immediate concerns for dairy farms are dwindling dairy prices and reduced demand while costs remain largely fixed.
Dairy prices have been on the decline since 2015 and were just starting to increase before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, which caused prices to plunge. According to the USDA forecast, however, prices are expected to increase slightly in 2021 due to the strong demand for dairy products abroad.
“You can’t argue too much against [lower prices]. I mean, if that’s the value being placed on the product. You can’t really artificially create value.” Rooney said. He attributes expansion of larger and larger farms to dwindling dairy prices, as they have the capacity to absorb different shocks in the dairy industry.
Despite these changes, Monument has remained committed to quality.
“Because our name’s on every container, we have to take great pains to make sure everything’s done right every time,” Rooney said.
Daniel Celik’s official title is custodial supervisor, but he recently took on the temporary position as the operations coordinator for the Covid Operations Team — joining a cohort of staff and student-workers taking on new responsibilities amid the pandemic. A typical week for Celik includes working at the testing center Mondays and Thursdays, communicating with students who need to move into isolation or quarantine (ISO/Q) housing on Tuesdays and Fridays and working on logistics each Wednesday.
“The pandemic really is in control of the position as it is constantly adapting to the changes with current virus spread, state and federal mandates and how we as a campus act,” Celik said in an email to The Campus.
Celik is typically the second person students speak to after the health center contacts them about moving into quarantine. He helps them work out the logistics of their move into isolation or quarantine housing, including setting up transportation, providing information about the move and what resources are available in their building, checking in with students via email and helping students figure out the logistics of their departure.
“This may sound cliché, but I think of [students] as my own to look after, help and guide through this process,” Celik said.
Affectionately, he’s also known as “the Covid supply guy,” because part of his job is procuring cleaning supplies for the whole campus. He took on this responsibility in June 2020 and kept the job as part of his new position. Celik is responsible for providing the hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, cleaning kit supplies and PPE seen all around campus.
Megyn Pitner, a catering manager, also saw a change in her work amid the pandemic, now working as part of the Covid Response Team, which provides meals and other services for students in quarantine and isolation housing.
Pitner said that she was glad to accept a larger role in Covid-19 safety this semester — and that a key part of the group’s success is the makeup of the team, which includes representatives from many of the departments that provide ground-level services.
“In these times we do what needs to be done,” Pitner said in an email to The Campus. “We’ve worked hard to identify needs, and then the most appropriate people to take care of the task step up and make it happen.”
Her work has taken her all over campus and included tasks such as dealing with scheduling emergencies, onboarding dining support and working in the dishroom.
Pitner tracks the number of students in isolation and quarantine each day and coordinates delivery of meals with other members of the Covid Response Team. She also has coordinated the preparation and delivery of meals during the fall and spring arrival quarantines.
“It really feels good to be part of the team that is so critical to the success of the college being a safe place for students and staff to be this semester,” Pitner said. “The great teamwork that has been required to make all of this happen has been inspiring and encouraging and helps me feel really good about working as hard as we all do.”
Custodial Services have also played an integral role in the college’s Covid-19 response. Kerry McGown, a custodial supervisor, said staff members are now providing service 24/7 to reduce close contacts with other staff and students. Custodial staff on the Covid Response Team clean, disinfect and maintain spaces for quarantined and isolated students.
“Things have changed a whole lot, but our ability to work as a team has remained the same,” McGown said. “I hope the students know how much we appreciate them being here — it was awfully quiet without them.”
Liv Mulloy ’23 is a line monitor working primarily in Atwater, where she manages lines during meals for a couple hours every shift. Mulloy’s job includes directing students in line, limiting the number of people in the general service area and sanitizing tables to keep them clean.
The three goals of the position are to instruct students to sanitize their hands before entering the dining hall, to stay six feet apart and to keep their masks on, according to Ariel Silver ’22, a line monitor working mostly in Proctor. He and Mulloy spoke about the challenges of following the rules — especially as the semester progresses and the prevalence of Covid-19 on campus appears low — but stressed how important it is to stay careful and safe.
“One of the things I regret about the job is that it seems like a policing job, like you’re trying to be a disciplinarian, which is not something that I at all enjoy,” Silver said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. We were told in the training that it’s mostly about friendly reminders in case something risky is going on in terms of Covid protocol.”
Mulloy and Silver both said the social aspect of the job and interacting with dining hall staff were highlights of their work. As a line monitor, Mulloy socializes with approximately 500 students who she sees each shift. Mulloy said she appreciates when students tell her about their days after she greets them.
“If you socialize with students, then they’re more inclined to listen if you have to ask them to stay six feet apart,” Mulloy said. “It's easy to be vocal if you’re already super chatty with them.”
“One of the best parts of the job is getting to know the people who work there and feed you,” Silver said. “I feel like so many of us take it for granted that there are people who work for very low pay who are feeding us."
Buy Again Alley, a small thrift store in downtown Middlebury, has a rich history of community outreach with local middle schools, high schools and the college. Much of the nonprofit store's charm and heart comes from its executive director and founder, Jutta Miska, who moved to Middlebury 38 years ago from Germany.
When she moved into town, Miska wanted to familiarize herself with her new home and contribute to the community. Previously a social worker in Germany, she became involved in several youth groups in Middlebury, working mainly with those who didn’t have much home support. Miska eventually co-founded a teen center, now known as Addison Central Teens.
Becoming co-director of the teen center allowed Miska to interact with the many college students who participated in work-study or volunteered there. When the idea for a clothing swap was mentioned to the students and elicited a positive response from them, Miska decided to move forward and organize the event that would lay the basis for her future thrift store.
She contacted the local high school and 39 participants attended the inaugural swap. That number would grow to around 250 in four or five years. Miska also coordinated clothing swaps with the middle school, and the events kept growing. During this time, a teen suggested Miska start a clothing store in Middlebury that specifically aimed at clothing for teens.
“My mom ran a small textile store in the village I grew up in, and my older sister and I had to help,” Miska said. “I always said, ‘I will never ever own a clothing store.’ Well, wherever my mother and sister are now, they are laughing.”
After taking a few months off from the teen center and studying bookkeeping, Miska opened her store.
Today, Buy Again Alley consigns with people ages 25 and under to encourage youth recycling. Clothes can be consigned for store credit, but Miska hopes to be able to consign for cash again once business picks up post-pandemic.
Buy Again Alley is more than a typical thrift store — its mission statement includes commitments to fostering recycling awareness, breaking down socio-economic barriers and serving a diverse clientele through its services. All of the store’s proceeds go toward supporting young adults in Addison County who are seeking an education in the trades field through scholarships and leadership opportunities.
“I feel recycling is very important in our world because our consumption is much too large. Also, I wanted to focus on younger people because of my background, as well as the fact that there were already three stores in town for older customers,” Miska said.
Soon after Miska set up her business, she communicated with the commons coordinators at the college to encourage students to consign or simply donate clothes if that was an affordable option for them.
Middlebury students typically donate huge amounts of clothing at the end of each school year, and Buy Again Alley now has around 230 consigners. The store also collaborates with nonprofits. When someone donates clothes to the store, they can ask for half of the profits to go toward a specific organization.
One student, Adrienne Coslick ’21, has modeled for the store in the past. She met Miska through her friend, an international student at Middlebury whom Miska hosted. After Coslick had visited a few times and stayed to chat, Miska approached her about being a model. Coslick posed for pictures taken for the store’s Instagram and Facebook profiles.
“She’s so nice. I think she’s really invested in the Middlebury Community, and it’s really inspiring and heartwarming to see that,” Coslick said.
Anita Borlak ’23.5 started work-study with Miska after visiting the store and finding it to be a fun space. Initially working around 15 hours a week, Borlak and the few others who worked in the store — another work-study student, as well as two of Miska’s close friends — began talking and getting to know each other.
“She’s overwhelmingly warm and really willing to open up and get to know you. She was a great introduction to the community,” Borlak said.
Miska also hosts international students at Middlebury. These students don’t live with her, but Miska and her husband help them connect to the local area and act as a nearby support.
“It was always part of what I wanted to do because I wanted to introduce my kids to different cultures and countries and diversity. We’ve built great relationships over the four years. You meet so many different people; it’s very exciting,” Miska said.
Midd students can connect with Buy Again Alley through Instagram and Facebook at @buyagainalley. Miska emphasized that she is always looking for students interested in helping out at the store with technology, fashion displays, sewing and a variety of other activities. Students interested in volunteering should talk to her directly, while those interested in work-study must contact the college.
Ripton voted on Jan. 12 to leave the Addison Central School District (ACSD) in an effort to keep its elementary school open amid declining enrollment, budget cuts and potential school consolidation. The town of Weybridge voted to stay.
Vermont schools have faced funding challenges in recent years due to the aging and decreasing population of the state. To combat ongoing demographic and funding shifts, ACSD is considering closing schools in Bridport, Ripton and Weybridge. The closures are meant to streamline the ACSD and eliminate the cost of maintaining additional staff and infrastructure. But in order for Ripton to leave ACSD, the other six towns in the district must vote to allow Ripton to leave. The bid will then move to the Vermont Board of Education, which will ultimately decide if Ripton can become independent.
Ripton mother Erin Lacey Robinson is leading Ripton’s effort to secede from ACSD. Robinson says she does not believe that closing Ripton Elementary School is a long-term solution to the budget problems that ACSD has cited as reason for consolidation. Her sentiment has been echoed by others parents in the town and across the state.
“The problems that our schools are facing across the state are not an individual school’s problems,” Robinson said. “It’s not all about declining enrollment.”
But it is, in part, about declining enrollment: Vermont’s schools are funded by property taxes from across the state, meaning that taxpayers from the Northeast Kingdom to Bennington are paying to keep schools open in places like Ripton. With so few students, the tiny elementary schools require higher overhead costs in comparison to larger schools with lower teacher-to-student ratios.
Robinson believes teacher and staff healthcare costs are the biggest drains on funding, but did not indicate other potential avenues for funding benefits for school employees. She said that budget issues will continue to occur until schools are better funded at the state and federal levels.
And she believes that closing Ripton’s school will only create additional problems, including hour-long bus rides for students and a lower ratio of teachers and paraeducators to students. This would mean students would spend less time outdoors and would receive less individual attention from educators.
“I’m worried about kids falling through the cracks,” she said.
Molly Witters, another Ripton parent involved in the effort to keep Ripton Elementary School open, voiced concerns about what closing Ripton would do to the community.
”Without Ripton Elementary School, the town becomes a vacation community and loses the reality and grittiness of working people that still exist here,” Witters said, adding that she is concerned young families and working class people will be less likely to settle in Ripton without a local school.
“People like myself think that [Ripton elementary school] could not only be the place for our children to be educated but could be even more of a community center,” Witters said. She said that a range of residents want the local school to stay open, from young families who moved to Ripton specifically for the school to elderly residents who attend the school’s Thanksgiving dinners.
The situation in neighboring school district Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) foreshadows what may happen if Ripton Elementary School is closed.
Addison Central Elementary School closed in 2020 and students were moved to Vergennes Union Elementary School. ANWSD parent Mary O’Donovan said the transition has been better than expected. The process of consolidation, however, was painful.
“It was heartbreaking the way the school board treated us,” O’Donovan said of the school’s swift closure.
But O’Donovan has worked hard to put any hard feelings aside.
“When you send a kid to a new school, you can’t hate it,” she said. “You have to embrace it, otherwise your kid will feel it.”
O’Donovan also mentioned deeper issues in funding Vermont schools and recognized that improvements are necessary. More money is needed, she said, either at the state or federal level. As it is, school funding is coming mostly from property taxes, an untenable solution in a state with a declining population.
The Ripton Elementary School’s independence, if successful, will transfer operational budget woes into the hands of Ripton residents.
Witters said she believes funding will be the school’s biggest challenge going forward. This is in addition to questions of staff and student retention.
Far from feeling hopeless, however, Ripton’s organizers seemed energized, ready to work and think outside the box for creative solutions to save their school.
And if they succeed, Ripton parents will be able to make decisions on their own. As is, the school is represented by a single member on the 13-man ACSD School Board.
“So even if you do the math,” Wittters said, “there’s no way to really have a voice about our future school choices in the school district.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Bridport as Bridgeport.
J-term is an unusual time at the college, but even more so this year. Due to Covid-19 safety precautions, J-term has been moved entirely online. With just a couple days left on campus, many Middlebury students are thinking ahead to the remote winter semester and making plans accordingly.
Kat Betrus ’24 will be spending J-Term working as a substitute teacher at an elementary school in her area, and will also be taking an online winter term class.
“I’m excited to work at a school because it’s something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I’m nervous about Covid-19 restrictions though because it will be difficult to be safe and enforce rules as someone who is new to the school I’ll be working at.”
A coast away from campus, Charlie Keohane ’24 will spend the winter in San Francisco, taking an online J-Term class as all first-year students are required to do. She’s looking forward to making the most of her extra free time to hike, spend time with family and stay in shape for the Women’s Track and Field team, of which she is a member.
Keohane said she’s not sure what to expect during her first J-term at Middlebury. “I’m sad to be missing out on a normal J-term because I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun and a very celebratory time,” she said. “But I’m planning to focus a lot on the class I’m in because I think I’ll have fewer distractions.”
Mark Gross ’21 also looks forward to returning to his home in San Francisco for the duration of the break. He plans to take an asynchronous J-term class so that he can work flexible hours at his old elementary school.
While he says he is disappointed that he won’t be on campus for J-term, he understands the unprecedented circumstances. “I'm feeling very bittersweet right now,” he said. “On one hand, I am very much ready to hug my parents and get back into my home routine, but, on the other hand, I have a great suite and great suitemates and a nice campus routine.”
Isabela Bahadorzadeh ’23 is looking forward to skipping the bulk of Vermont’s cold winter weather after having a challenging J-Term last year.
“J-term, and Vermont winter in general, was kind of a dark time where I felt really homesick,” she said. “I think if I were a skier or did other outdoor winter activities, it’d be a lot different, but a lot of times it just feels like that’s the only option for winter.”
She plans to enjoy time with her family and friends while studying remotely.
Sophie Levine ’23 plans to work at a health clinic in San Francisco during J-term.
“I have very low expectations for J-term online, and I was offered a job, which is just better than taking a class,” Levine said. She also plans to celebrate Thanksgiving outdoors with her grandparents in Los Angeles after quarantining.
“Feeling burnt out and nostalgic for a lot of the things I have at home — food, more exciting walks, etc — but [I] also know that home will eventually feel banal, too,” Levine said.