POULTNEY — The town and local chamber are excited to hear of a new K-6 school that might open at the former Green Mountain College campus.
“I got an email late yesterday afternoon and thought, wow, this is big news,” said Judy Leech, president of the Poultney Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
The email was from Danhee Bhakta, wife of Raj Bhakta, who bought the 155-acre campus at auction for $4.55 million in August 2020.
“Any and all introduction to prospective parents and interested educators would be so greatly appreciated,” reads Danhee Bhakta’s email, shared with the Herald by those who’d received it.
“This is just one baby step towards our big vision on the campus.”
The email’s subject line reads, “Green Mountain Community School is now accepting students (K-6th) for Fall 2021.”
Attempts to reach Bhakta Wednesday weren’t successful.
“Poultney has been without Green Mountain College for two or three years now, and it was a big blow to the town when it went down,” said Leech. “Now things seem to be on the upswing again, which is really great.”
She said Slate Quarry Parks broke ground last week, and for the past few months there’s been a steady stream of both new people opening new businesses, and businesses changing hands.
“It’s pretty exciting at the moment,” she said.
Poultney Economic Development Coordinator, Sarah Pelkey, said she’d seen the same email as Leech.
“It’s very new information that the press has just as quickly as we do, so aside from what I’ve learned from just doing a little research online, there’s a Facebook page and website, we don’t have much information at this point,” she said.
The Bhakta’s have been working closely with the town, she said.
“One of the things that’s publicly known in Poultney is they’ve been using the campus in concert with the Revive Church since last fall,” she said. “They opened the campus to the church group because they were formally meeting virtually in a parking lot in Castleton, so over the winter they allowed the church to use some of the campus for their congregation.”
She hopes the school, if it opens, will be a solid first step toward revitalizing the campus.
“The town is very supportive of repurposing the campus,” she said. “It can’t be understated how important it is to repurpose the campus in light of what’s happening throughout the state in higher education in general with campuses closing, so this is incredible news.”
For the past few years, Vermont has been steadily losing its colleges, many of them in the Rutland-Bennington area. Besides GMC, the College of St. Joseph in Rutland closed, as did Southern Vermont College in Bennington. Marlboro College closed around the same time as the others, while the Vermont State College system has been mulling further consolidations.
According to Green Mountain Community School’s Facebook page, it plans to open in the fall and is currently working on being recognized as an independent school by the Vermont Agency of Education.
Its website, greenmountaincommunityschool.org, claims that its mission is to “cultivate citizens of character who can discern their gifts, hone them through self-discipline, and possess the courage and confidence to apply them. We believe that education should inspire students to understand a most essential truth: that all are capable of achieving greatness and happiness, regardless of the obstacles that come their way.”