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Voters line up to cast ballots at Stamford's special town meeting on Monday.

Stamford Votes to Continue School Merger Process

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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William Levine opens the special town meeting with School Board Chairwoman Cynthia Lamore. 
STAMFORD, Vt. — Stamford voters on Monday gave the go-ahead to continue down the path toward a potential school district merger with Clarksburg, Mass. 
 
In a vote of 58-29-1, the special town meeting approved by paper ballot a continuing with Option 3 — a recommendation by the private consultants and the Interstate Merger Committee to create a unified district. 
 
Also on a motion by Nancy Bushika, town meeting approved putting funding for the merger research on the annual town meeting warrant should the grant funds run out.
 
Clarksburg's Select Board is expected to set a date on Wednesday for its special town meeting. Approval by both towns will allow the merger committee, made up of members from both towns, to hire a part-time consultant or administrator to guide the effort through the legal, educational and governance issues. 
 
Although the result was positive, the merger plan did receive some pushback from residents who questioned the decision to go with the third option proposed by Public Consulting Group. 
 
Option 1 would mean no merger but would still require Stamford to take actions to comply with Vermont's Act 46 — legislation forcing school districts statewide to reorganize and consolidate. The measure was the impetus for Stamford to begin talks with Clarksburg rather than northward to districts farther away in Vermont. 
 
Option 2 would leave the schools existing in their current grade K-8 configuration and share administrative services. This option was deemed as too costly, not as efficient in using building space and not providing educational benefits. 
 
Option 3, which would create an early education center at Stamford and a Grade 3-8 school at Clarksburg within a unified district was determined by PCG, the merger and school committees as the best choice.  
 
It would create larger classes so grades wouldn't have to be combined, more programming, better access to data, and early testing on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System instead of encountering it Mass high schools. 
 
"We want to improve their chances and improve their educational opportunities," said Cynthia Lamore, chairman of the Board of School Directors. 
 
But several residents thought there should have been a chance for voting on the other options. 
 
"Why can't we go with Readsboro?" asked one man. "Clarksburg is a sinking ship."
 
Ed Fletcher asked why the committee couldn't "re-present" that past option with Readsboro. 
 
"I came here expressly to vote as a parent and I would like to see the school remain as it is," said Nancy Lesage, who was concerned about how it would affect special education services. 
 
Robert Bence said his son had graduated eighth grade with a class of 13 from Stamford, and it was great. 
 

Members of the School Board and Merger Committee answer questions on Monday. 
"But that's expensive and to have five pople in a class is really expensive," he said. "Can we afford a class of five people and give them a quality education?"
 
Lamore noted that the Southern Valley Unified Union School District of Readsboro and Halifax was having its own controversy in sending Readsboro's Grades 7 and 8 to Halifax because the class was so small. 
 
Rejecting Option 3 was essentially a choosing Option 1, said school officials.
 
"As far as the state's concerned we have to show action, we have to show consolidation or merging with another district," Lamore said.
 
Stamford had voted not to join that school union two years ago, preferring to explore Clarksburg or gaining "isolated" status to go it's own way. School officials said there was little hope in becoming an isolated school although a few people thought the town should "push back."
 
But one man noted there has been pushback by towns and so far the courts have sided with the Board of Education. If they didn't choose Massachusetts, the state would decide. 
 
"Vermont's not going to give us choices anymore," he said. "They're going to tell us specifically to join with Halifax. ... We're not going to have an option really."
 
Kelly Holland, a member of the merger committee, said the state has already stepped in to forcefully merge school districts when towns have failed to act. 
 
"We're not trying to scare you, we're just telling you what we are seeing," she said. 
 
Residents also brought up concerns over the condition of Clarksburg School, how the funding would work and how much control they would continue to have over the school building.
 
A small contingent continued after the vote to push for more research into becoming a town district with "isolated" status. Holland said she felt uncomfortable in doing a two-pronged approach because it would seem to undermine the town's commitment to an interstate merger in the eyes of Vermont. There was also, she noted, no money for that effort.
 
Lamore suggested they come to the School Board meeting on Tuesday to discuss creating a subcommittee to do some research.

Tags: act 46,   interstate ,   merger,   special town meeting,   stamford school,   

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Protecting Children and Others During a Measles Outbreak

Dr. Marie George

Once a common childhood disease, measles was almost an expected part of growing up. But it wasn't without consequence. Worldwide, up to 2.6 million people died annually from measles every year up until a vaccine was introduced in 1963.

In recent years, some parents have refused to vaccinate their children based on misinformation about side effects of the vaccine.  As a result, the number of unvaccinated children, teens and adults in our communities is on the rise. While those making the choice to not vaccinate believe they're making this decision solely on behalf of themselves or their children, they're actually impacting the health of others. Sometimes with deadly consequences.

How is it spread? Who is at risk?

The measles virus is highly contagious and spreads easily. Spread by close personal contact, coughing, or sneezing, the virus can remain active in the air or on a surface for up to two hours after it has been transmitted.

That means that any unvaccinated individual — including infants and those with compromised immune systems — can get sick when entering a space where an infected person was even hours before. Infected individuals can then go on to spread the illness days before they show any signs of the disease.

How to protect those at risk

Measles vaccines are by far the best possible protection you can give your child. Two doses are 97 percent effective and the potential side effects are rare and not nearly as scary as suggested by a lot of popular media. If they appear at all, side effects are usually a sore arm, a rash, or maybe a slight fever. Claims that the vaccine causes autism have been undeniably proven to be false.

As for when to get your child vaccinated, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend children receive the measles vaccine at age 12 to 15 months and again at 4 to 6 years old. Children can receive the second dose earlier as long as it is at least 28 days after the first dose.

How about adults?

Because the risk of death from measles is higher for adults than it is for children, teens and adults who have not been vaccinated should take steps to protect themselves. "The vaccine can be provided in two doses within 28 days of each other. This is particularly important for those planning travel overseas or to areas in the United States where outbreaks are occurring.

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