(This story is by the Valley News, in which it first appeared June 30, 2017.)
TUNBRIDGE — Residents on Thursday rejected a proposed school merger with Chelsea, the latest development in a series of consolidation votes this year in the White River Valley.
The vote was 164-160.
Tunbridge residents on April 11 initially approved the merger on a 151-109 vote, and Chelsea residents also voted that day to support it, 173-78. It would involve sharing a middle school for Tunbridge and Chelsea while offering school choice for high school students in both towns.
Some Tunbridge residents petitioned to reconsider the vote after raising concerns about what would happen to the Tunbridge Central School if it housed just grades kindergarten through five, and whether Tunbridge was giving up too much control over middle-school education in a merger.
But under the state’s Act 46 school district consolidation law, the merger’s fate also has been linked to a proposed school district comprising Bethel, Royalton and Rochester. Royalton voters initially rejected that plan, then earlier this month approved it, but Rochester voters went the other way and last week rejected the merger after first supporting it April 11.
Earlier this week, state education officials said a new law enacted last month could potentially allow a Tunbridge-Chelsea school merger to proceed even if the Royalton, Bethel and Rochester merger fails, but that it might require yet another vote in Tunbridge and Chelsea and in another so-called side-district in the White River Valley involving Granville and Hancock.