The Slate Valley Unified School District is considering a new middle school to create better learning opportunities in the face of declining enrollment and rising costs.
The Slate Valley Innovation Committee has been studying the possibility of a middle school since October, based on results from a community survey that shows the need for a middle school separate from the elementary and high school.
Under the current plans, the Fair Haven high school building would serve grades 7 and 8 in a separate wing within the school.
“We recognized the need to have a middle school philosophy,” said Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell.
Slate Valley formed last year in place of the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union. It serves the communities of Benson, Castleton, Fair Haven, West Haven and Hubbardton. All five buildings in the district could see significant changes if the middle school is approved.
Some of the buildings could gain or lose classrooms. Fair Haven Grade School would have an additional floor of classroom space if seventh and eighth graders move.
The committee is considering creating STEM classrooms in each school. Education consultant Peter Clarke said the committee is also considering developing a private partnership with Castleton University for an early childhood education program.
All elementary schools in the district would serve grades K-6 under the proposed changes.
Black River Architects is working with the district to accommodate the extra students at Fair Haven High School.
One proposal calls for a 600-seat theater or an alternative of a multi-purpose space that would serve 400 to 425 spectators and a larger gymnasium, including a second-floor indoor track.
Clarke said one of the goals of the changes is to make the learning opportunities more equal for students.
Fair Haven Union High School, which currently serves 372 students in grades 9 through 12, would serve an additional 198 students.
However, as in most districts, enrollment is expected to decline. The middle school enrollment is expected to drop by 14 students by 2023.
All of the buildings also require significant deferred maintenance costs.
Some are also out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Benson Village School, for example, needs a new roof. Fair Haven Grade School needs a new elevator.
The board has yet to approve the concept. The board has also not determined what the staffing needs would be or the costs.
If approved, the board would seek a vote from the community for a bond in the late spring or early fall.
The school transition wouldn’t be completed until 2021 at the earliest.