The school board welcomed Saint Michael’s College professor Vince Bolduc at its April 3 meeting to share his exit polls results regarding South Burlington schools. The board also provided an update on airport noise at the Chamberlin School and set a date for a public forum to present the eight possible plans for the future of the middle and high school buildings on Dorset Street.
Vince Bolduc is a professor of sociology and anthropology at Saint Michael’s College, where, along with his students, he conducts polls and surveys to gain insight into the Vermont social landscape. Recently, they polled 431 of the almost 7,000 voters that turned out for the South Burlington election on Nov. 6, 2018. Bolduc noted that in all of the surveys he’s done since 1992, South Burlington schools have historically been well-rated, ranked at the top of voter priorities and received voter support for financial funding. This year was no different.
Voters were asked to rate the importance of several topics regarding the city in general, including balancing the city budget, building a new recreation facility and more affordable housing and keeping the current tax rate and maintaining quality schools was ranked at the top of this list, tied with providing quality services like police, fire department and recreation.
As far as public opinion on how the city schools are performing at serving the kindergarten through 12th grade population, overall 26 percent felt the schools are doing an “excellent” job, down from 36 percent in 2016. Interestingly, the numbers for those who voted “very good,” “fair” and “poor” stayed relatively the same from 2016 to 2018, but those who voted “don’t know” jumped from 14 to 26 percent. The shift seems to be directly from those who voted “excellent.” Bolduc was unable to explain why this happened.
Lastly, when voters were asked a hypothetical question about how they would want to spend their tax dollars, improving city schools was once again at the top of the list, tied with increasing renewable energy sources. These two items beat out others like building a new indoor recreational facility and attracting more businesses to the city.
The poll also touched on the topic of airport noise, asking participants whether they would want affected homes to receive federal funding for special sound insulation or if they think more homes should be completely removed. Only 20 percent voted to remove houses, while 80 percent would prefer to insulate. Predictably, the Chamberlin and Kennedy Drive precincts were more in favor of the insulation process, over the Orchard and Southeast Quadrant precincts.
Speaking of airport noise, superintendent David Young updated the board that he did receive back information from the Burlington Airport on the public records request. At this time, they are close to coming to a conclusion, but first want to ask some additional questions.
“Just given how long it takes to make changes, I’m worried about being able to be responsive and ready for September of 2019,” Young said, but he hopes to be able to provide a more concrete update and plan at the April 17 meeting or the May 1 meeting. After continuing to gather all the information, Young said he plans to provide “an update on where we’re going, a recommendation and perhaps some additional feedback from the FAA and the airport.”
As for Master Planning and Visioning, a large event is planned for Thursday, April 11 at the South Burlington High School auditorium from 7-9 p.m. The event is open to the public and will offer an in-depth presentation of the eight options currently being considered for the future of the middle and high school buildings. These plans range from basic updates to the existing buildings to completely demolishing the schools and starting from scratch. The community is strongly encouraged to attend to learn more about the plans and provide feedback.
The next school board meeting is on Wednesday, April 17 at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Library at 7 p.m. To view the April 3 meeting in its entirety, visit www.retn.org.