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Public Post is a community reporting initiative using digital tools to report on cities and towns across Vermont.Public Post is the only resource that lets you browse and search documents across dozens of Vermont municipal websites in one place.Follow reporter Amy Kolb Noyes and #PublicPost on Twitter and read news from the Post below.

Education Agency Clarifies Act 46 District Size Requirements

Amy Kolb Noyes
A sign on the door of the Elmore Store clarifies what an upcoming school district merger vote means for school choice in Elmore.

The Vermont Agency of Education has released a clarifying document to try to answer one persistent question about district size guidelines in Act 46, the new school district consolidation law.

The document addresses one frequently asked question with a one-word answer:

FAQ: Does Act 46 require districts to form larger educational units with 900 or more students?
Answer: No.

The long answer is eight bullet points that take up the rest of a page. (Words emphasized in bold were underlined the original document.):

  • Act 46 does not require any school district to have 900 or more students.
  • Act 46 does not require any supervisory union (with multiple member districts) to have 1,100 students.
  • Act 46 does not require that any educational governance unit have a minimum number of students.
  • Act 46 states that the state’s educational goals are best served by a school district that has 900 or more students, that is its own SU, and that has other characteristics (a “preferred structure”).
  • Act 46 acknowledges that a preferred structure may not be possible or the best model to meet the goals in all regions. It states that a multi-district supervisory union (an “alternative structure”) may be the best way to meet the goals in some regions, particularly if the SU has 1,100 or more students.
  • Act 46 provides transitional assistance and incentives to districts that voluntarily merge into preferred structures within stated time periods (accelerated mergers in Sec. 6 and later mergers in Sec. 7).
  • Act 46 also provides transitional assistance and incentives to districts that voluntarily create alternative structures through the Act 153 (2010) and Act 156 (2012) processes: REDs, “side-by-side mergers,” etc. Note that it is possible to obtain a waiver to the size criteria under which incentives are available in Acts 153 and 156.
  • The final State plan issued by the State Board of Education in 2018 will merge previously un-merged districts only to the extent necessary to achieve the goals and only if it can do so while maintaining each district’s operating/tuition-paying structure. Act 46 does not require that the districts created in the final state plan be of any particular size.

Many local school districts around Vermont are grappling with interpreting what Act 46's requirements and guidelines mean for their schools. The five towns that make up the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union are meeting at Robinson Elementary School, in Starksboro, Nov. 9 to go over the law.
"The featured speaker will be Nicole Mace, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association," an announcement on the Monkton town website states. "She will discuss the various actions across the state that School Boards and Communities are taking in reaction to this sweeping legislation, and what this could mean for the ANESU. We will also be joined by local Representatives Dave Sharpe, Fred Baser and Harvey Smith who will share their understanding of the problems this law seeks to address and their hopes for the future. The second half of the meeting, or more time if possible, will be devoted to Q and A and discussion. We are hoping for a good turnout from across the district."

Voters in Elmore and Morristown will decide November 3 whether or not to merge those two towns into one school district. A public informational meeting on the vote is scheduled for 6 p.m. October 28 at the Elmore Town Hall. If approved, Elmore will no longer tuition new secondary students to middle and high schools of their choice. Instead, all Elmore public school students will attend Peoples Academy Middle and High School, in Morrisville.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
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