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Program a boost for Vt. school

Facility provides added resources

MORGAN, Vt. -- Just after noon on Mondays and Wednesdays, all 47 students from the E. Taylor Hattin elementary school climb onto the bus for a 20-minute ride to Derby.

There, at a still-under-construction indoor recreation facility, the children can enjoy programs their tiny school can't afford: yoga, karate, roller hockey, theater, computers, French lessons, and -- sometime around March 1 -- a swimming pool.

"I like coming here," said Spencer Lachance-Guyette, 10, a fifth-grader, one recent Monday as he clicked his way through a Power Point presentation about his family vacation.

After about 40 minutes in the computer lab at the Indoor Recreation for Orleans County, or IROC, Spencer moved down the hall to French lessons taught by students from North Country Union High School. Then it was on to physical education in an upstairs activity room. The surface of the just-installed indoor soccer arena wasn't ready for use yet.

"The kids love it," said Principal George Fuller.

And school officials do, too. It allows them to offer programs they couldn't do on their own.

Fuller said the school doesn't have enough computers to offer the courses, the French mentor program couldn't be run because Morgan is too far from the high school and the theater teacher wouldn't make the trip to Morgan.

So the Morgan school board made a deal with IROC: The kids are bused there for programs they can't get at the school.

IROC is a nonprofit organization that raised more than $2 million, most of it in private donations, to build the 55,000-square-foot facility on 10 acres just off Route 105, not far from the Interstate 91 exit.

IROC Executive Director Jim Davis is working to offer similar programs with other schools in the community.

"Morgan was missing all the supporting programs most school struggle to provide," Davis said. "The objective is to make education, fun, exciting and different."

Douglas Dows, the director of Safe and Healthy Schools for the state Education Department, said many small schools across the state find creative ways to offer students programs they wouldn't be able to otherwise. But he'd never heard of a solution like Morgan had found.

"I would say they're getting something there. It certainly is better than some other alternatives," Dows said. "I'm all for some innovative ways to do it."

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