It was the first day of school for the brand-new Lamoille South school board, born of the state-ordered merger of the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts.
“You guys are quiet tonight,” noted Tracy Wrend, superintendent of the Lamoille South district, after the board approved the district’s new tax rates without discussion.
“We’re just getting back into the swing of things, shaking off the rust,” said board chair Cara Zimmerman.
The new seven-person Lamoille South board was formed after the state government forced a merger of the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe school districts last year under a state law requiring districts to consider merging with their neighbors. The objectives were efficiency and more opportunity for students.
The board has three members from Stowe, chair Zimmerman, Leigh Pelletier and Tiffany Donza; three from Morristown, David Bickford, Karen Cleary and Stephanie Craig; and one member from Elmore, Penny Jones.
Throughout the meeting, the seven laughed and chatted, catching up or getting to know each other.
A major theme Monday was how the board should handle possible inequities among the three communities, both financially and in terms of student opportunity for educational and extracurricular activities.
Right now, the board plans to look at how it might improve student opportunity at both Stowe High School and Peoples Academy, and it may look at extracurriculars first, since it might be easier to make changes there.
Bickford suggested a weekly “blended learning” session, where kids from all schools can learn together online, in the same room.
Bickford thinks that would “address the socialization and interaction by bringing kids together.”
“It’s all important, and we have a lot of work to do,” said Zimmerman.
The board tentatively plans a community engagement meeting Oct. 17 to gather opinions from residents of all three towns.
Where to get on the bus
The board erupted in laughter when it tackled school-bus schedules.
Right now, the district uses two busing companies — Lamoille Valley Transportation for kids who go to school in Morristown and Elmore, and Percy Transportation for students in Stowe.
“Is this a difference or an inequity?” one board member joked.
Bus schedules look similar this year to last year’s, board members agreed.
In Stowe, school ends eight minutes later than last year — 2:43 p.m.
The earliest bus pickup is at 7 a.m. Stowe has five bus routes, which start at Gold Brook, Weeks Hill, Nebraska Valley, Edson Hill and Mansfield View roads and get kids to school by 7:55 a.m.
School starts at 8 a.m. at Stowe Middle/High School and at 8:10 a.m. at Stowe Elementary School.
Elmore and Morristown have six bus routes, with the earliest pickup at 6:50 a.m. Most routes have five stops, and begin at Stancliff, Walton, Frazier and Lower Elmore Mountain roads, and at the Elmore/Wolcott town line and Mud City Loop.
After school, all kids in Elmore and Morristown will be dropped off by 3:40 p.m.
The biggest change is the elimination of “courtesy stops” on Congress Street in Morrisville, where kids have been dropped off in the past; parents have been notified those won’t happen this year because of after-school scheduling issues.
“Typically, it shouldn’t be a huge barrier for most people,” said Andy Lundeen, director of finance and operations.
The Lamoille South board agreed on state-set property tax rates for residents in all three communities.
The adjusted equalized tax rate — the one that applies across the board in Stowe, Elmore and Morristown — is $1.455 cents on every $100 of property, Lundeen told the board. That’s a hair higher than the $1.452 the board predicted.
For primary residences, that makes for a tax rate of $1.516 per $100 of property value in Elmore, $1.448 in Morristown and $1.540 in Stowe. For $100,000 worth of property, the bills are $1,516 in Elmore, $1,448 in Morristown and $1,540 in Stowe.
For second homes and business in property, the rates are $1.661 in Elmore, $1.586 in Morristown and $1.688 in Stowe. For $100,000 worth of property, the bills are $1,661 in Elmore, $1,586 in Morristown and $1,688 in Stowe.
Those tax rates are only for school costs; municipal taxes are separate.