Black River Independent School moving full steam ahead

independent school
Matt Foley was the student iPad winner. Pictured with Megan Harlow Jenkins, his mother Liza Foley, and Marissa Selleck. Photo provided

LUDLOW, Vt. – Black River Independent School Committee is continuing to make progress toward its goal of opening Black River Independent School for the 2020-21 school year. The name has shifted away from Black River Academy and will officially be called Black River Independent School to avoid confusion with Black River Academy Museum.

BRISC recently hosted a free pizza party complete with an iPad giveaway at Mangiamo Ristorante in Ludlow to educate local students and parents about the progress the committee has made in recent months organizing their curriculum, honing the budget, and preparing the application to the state of Vermont Agency of Education.

Approximately 60-75 people attended the event according to BRISC board member Marissa Selleck, who was a key presenter. According to Selleck, many of the attendees were from the elementary school in addition to current middle and high school Black River students. She was happy to let people know about all the progress that’s been made and admits that there’s still more to do. “It’s been a nonstop, round the clock process. There is still a lot of work to do, but the effort, time, and detail that has gone into the planning is beyond measure,” she said.

Curriculum of the Black River Independent School will be based around core classes with additional STEAM classes and will also include an outdoor educational component. Athletics will be offered as student numbers allow, or they will have the option to participate with a neighboring school.

The next key hurdle is securing their location. An independent feasibility committee has looked into the town of Ludlow taking over the current Black River High School building and has provided their recommendation to the Ludlow Selectboard to take that step. The Selectboard will scheduled an informational meeting in October for the town to discuss taking over the Black River building, with a town vote expected in early November. If the town approves, the building will then be available as the Black River Independent School location.

Selleck is hopeful that process will be successful. “Everybody wanted to find a way to keep a school here. Everybody understands the importance. And now the more work we put into it, the more tangible it becomes, the people can wrap their heads around it,” she said.

Once the location is secure, the application to the Vermont Agency of Education can be finalized. BRISC is already working with local State Representative Logan Nicoll and Agency of Education Secretary Dan French to help with the application process so that the final draft is as detailed and complete as possible.

The target number of students for the first year is 75 students for grades 7-12. With Ludlow students having school choice, the average state tuition, currently at just under $16,000, would then go to their selected school. There would be no additional costs for students to attend BRIS. Current Black River students are asked to select a school by November so that the other schools may better prepare; however, the choice is not set in stone and the students are still allowed to change their decision at any time throughout the year.

Although she admits there is a lot more to accomplish, Selleck and the rest of BRISC will keep pushing so that they are ready to go when Black River High School and Middle School close at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

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