Town meeting preview: Act 46 school district mergers

A school crossing sign. Photo by Ruth Hare/VTDigger
Residents in 57 school districts will vote on whether to merge into 10 larger school districts on Town Meeting Day.

If all the merger plans are approved, there will be two fewer supervisory unions in Vermont, according to the Agency of Education.

Four of the proposals involve districts from more than one supervisory union. Some of the district consolidation plans increase school choice, while others give up choice in a grade or two.

When the state began the district consolidation process under Act 46 two years ago, the state had more school districts (283) and more school board members (1,440, or one for every 56 students) than any other state.

Since July 1, 2015, voters in 58 towns have decided to merge 66 school districts into 14 districts, according to a report from the Agency of Education. During the same period, voters have rejected merger proposals for 20 school districts.

Here is a rundown of district mergers on the ballot this week:

• Poultney, Proctor and West Rutland, towns in Rutland Central Supervisory Union, will vote on forming the Quarry Valley district. Quarry Valley would operate schools for all grades pre-kindergarten through 12 and serve 988 students.

• Wells and Middletown Springs will decide whether to join the Wells Springs district. The Wells Spring group would operate two pre-K-through-six schools and tuition students in grades seven through 12.

• Six Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union towns will vote on forming the Slate Valley district. The towns are Benson, Castleton, Hubbardton, Fair Haven, Orwell and West Haven. Residents in Orwell voted down a consolidation plan twice before. A new study committee has reconfigured the merger, and this time if at least four towns want to merge, then the proposal shifts to a modified unified union school district. The towns have eight school boards and eight separate budgets. Under the plan, the towns would have one pre-K-12 school district serving 1,376 students. One supervisory union with an 18-member school board would be responsible for operating the elementary, middle and high schools.

• The NEK Choice district would merge 10 school districts that pay tuition for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to attend public or private schools of their choice. A single school board with 11 members would monitor student performance and work with receiving schools for the towns of East Haven, Granby, Guildhall, Kirby, Maidstone, Victory, Bloomfield, Brunswick, Lemington and Norton. Students in these towns attend 20 different schools in Vermont and other states.

• Voters in Athens, Grafton, Rockingham and Westminster will consider merging into a pre-K-12 education system. The four towns plan to merge five school districts operating seven schools into one district with a single 10-member school board.

• Nine towns from the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union will vote on a merger into the Taconic and Green Regional School District. Voters in Danby, Dorset, Manchester, Mount Tabor, Sunderland and the Mountain Towns Regional Education District (Londonderry, Landgrove, Peru and Weston) will cast ballots on the merger Tuesday. One board would operate five schools: Currier Memorial School (kindergarten through sixth grade), Flood Brook School (kindergarten through eight), Manchester Elementary Middle School (K through eight), Sunderland Elementary School (K through six) and the Dorset School (K through eight). Students at Manchester and Sunderland would attend a district school for grades seven and eight. All students would have school choice for grades nine through 12.

• Voters in Concord, Lunenburg, Burke, Lyndon, Newark, Sutton, Sheffield and Wheelock will decide whether to form the Kingdom East school district. The seven school boards and two supervisory union boards would be streamlined into one entity that operates local pre-K through eighth grade schools. High school students have school choice and can attend local private schools. The study group is interested in offering public school choice among the elementary schools.

• Towns in Windham Central Supervisory Union are considering two proposed mergers. There are 10 school districts in nine towns with six different models for education governance. Jamaica, Townshend and Windham have schools offering pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Brookline and Newfane have a joint contract school that teaches kindergarten through sixth grade. These elementary schools feed into Leland & Gray Middle and High School. If voters approve, they would form the West River Education District.

• Also in Windham Central, the towns of Marlboro, Dover and Wardsboro will consider merging their districts. Marlboro has a school with pre-kindergarten through eight and pays tuition for students to go to high school. Dover and Wardsboro have pre-K through sixth grade schools and tuitions out students in grades seven through 12. This school district would become the River Valley Unified Union School District.

• Voters in the Windsor Central Supervisory Union towns of Barnard, Bridgewater, Pomfret, Killington, Reading and Woodstock and the Two Rivers Supervisory Union town of Plymouth will decide whether to merge into a single district with a single board. The unification proposal invests more in curriculum, offers elementary school choice and creates town-level parent advisory committees to facilitate community input.

• Cambridge is holding a revote on whether to join the Lamoille North Modified Unified District, which was formed last spring.

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  • Craig Gilborn

    Did I miss Arlington and Bennington Town?