Black River Independent School Committee gaining momentum

LUDLOW, Vt. – Marissa Selleck wants to see her alma mater transition into an independent school.

Selleck is secretary for the Ludlow-based Black River Independent School Committee and a former Black River alumni, having graduated in 2004. Speaking with Selleck along with committee member Suzy Buckley during the informational meeting Monday, Aug. 20 at the Fletcher Memorial Library, they shared some of the progress the BRISC has been making toward their goal of opening Black River Academy, an independent school for grades 7 through 12, once Black River High School and Middle School closes.

independent school
BRISC seeks community input about programming and focus of independent school. Stock photo.

During the most recent Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School Board meeting Aug. 8, it was determined the final date for the BRHS school closure to be at the end of June 2020. That now gives the BRISC a solid timeline to work with, and they are moving forward now with a final transition date in mind and with the hope they’ll be able to transition many of the current teachers into the independent school. According to Selleck, “We definitely want to retain great teachers. There’s great staff who have worked there a long time and part of the community.”

In recent months, the committee has been brainstorming programming, focus, and curriculum ideas as well as consulting with many experts throughout the state who have launched successful independent schools. According to Selleck, Board Chair Uli Donohue visited several independent schools in the beginning of the year including Compass School, Long Trail School, and Big Picture Program. David Wilson, from Long Trail School has also come to speak at length to the committee. Their list of consultants and experts has grown significantly and all have been offering different pieces of information depending on their expertise, which has been extremely helpful to the committee.

As fundraising continues to be an ongoing challenge, the committee has met with grant coordinators and has been gathering a list of potential grants. Committee member Susie Buckley was confident with their prospects for securing grants for their school. “Once we get things into place, there’s endless grants out there. We just have to find them,” she said.

The committee now is looking for input from community members. Programming such as sports and an arts program through an affiliation with the local art center Fletcher Farms are a few of the programs discussed. “We’ve been bouncing a lot of ideas around,” Selleck said.

BRISC attended the Ludlow Farmer’s Market in early July gauge interest. “The reaction we got was very positive,” said Selleck. Next steps include reaching out to local families to get a sense of what they can expect for numbers initially for the 2020-21 school year.

“We need to put together all the puzzle pieces now and build a great school,” said Buckley. Once their plan for the school has been formalized, that is when they will file with the Vermont Board of Education for their formal approval.

BRISC meetings are held weekly Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. in the BRHS library. All are welcome to attend.

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