By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
ISLE LA MOTTE – The future of the Isle La Motte Elementary School could be on the line Tuesday night during a meeting by the Champlain Islands Unified Union School District School Board.
As of this month the school is projected to have probably 4 students when the doors open in September, however those numbers could change.
The school board wants to hear from residents of the island town on the viability of keeping the doors open, according to Chairman Michael Inners.
The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and the plan is to have it available live through Google chat and a live call-in phone number, Superintendent Michael Clark said.
If Gov. Phil Scott continues to lift restrictions under the COVID-19 scare, the meeting might be open to a small number of Isle La Motte residents. Access will be posted on the website for the school district and The Islander.
Principal Amanda Ellison said in a memo that the parents of three future third graders and one future first grader have indicated they want to be at the school.
Ellison wrote one other student – a future fourth grader -- indicated he or she would transfer if he or she became the oldest child in the building. That appears will happen, Ellison said.
The school has 13 students currently, but nine appear to be moving on. Most are headed to the other two elementary schools in the district – North Hero or Grand Isle.
School Director Chet Bromley of Isle La Motte said he hopes that residents will turn out for this important discussion.
During the budget process, two Isle La Motte teachers were eliminated from the budget. The school is projected to have one teacher, one aide and a part-time custodian. Instruction for music, art and physical education will come from one of the other district schools one day a week.
Clark said no food service will be prepared onsite for 3 or 4 students, but would be coordinated through delivery from another school.
When the district school board approved a more than $8.3 million annual budget in January to go before voters in the three towns, the issue of the Isle La Motte School was front and center.
Faculty, staff and residents had quizzed the board at the time about whether shutting down the school was due.
The projections at that time for the next school year showed 13 students attending the school with 3 fulltime teaching equivalents (FTE). Some grades have no students.
Some questioned why Isle La Motte was staying open, but Clark explained that under Act 46 mergers, schools had to remain in operation for four years.
One resident wondered what if all parents opted to have their children go instead to Grand Isle or North Hero and there were no students left in Isle La Motte. The thought was the ILM teachers could move to help those accepting schools and the district would save with reductions in heat, electricity, water and other expenses.
The board said last year the operation of the ILM School cost about $740,000 out of a total local budget of $1.1 million.
Bromley said at the time he wanted to see the ILM School retained. He thought the district could take students from other district buildings to help populate the island school.
“I want to keep it viable,” Bromley said at the time.