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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

State Board OKs 4 More Act 46 Consolidation Plans

Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
VPR
Members of the Addison Northwest Act 46 Study Committee face the State Board of Education Tuesday at U-32 High School in East Montpelier. The State Board of Education approved merger plans from Addison Northwest as well as three other plans.

TheState Board of Education approved four more Act 46 consolidation plans. While lawmakers were hammering out an agreement on the Act 46 spending cap in the Statehouse, the State Board of Education met just up the hill to consider the consolidation agreements.

The board met at Union 32 High School Tuesday and approved merger plans from the Addison Northwest, Lamoille North, Franklin Central and the Addison Rutland supervisory unions.

The State Board of Education has now approved eight consolidation plans under Act 46, the school district consolidation law.

Chris Kayhart is the chairman of the Addison Northwest Act 46 Study Committee. He told the state board that the move would strengthen all of the schools in the district.

"If we act now, it promotes local control," Kayhart said. "We get to determine our own destiny on our own terms. Currently, each separate district sinks or swims on its own. Together we can offer more to students, do it more efficiently, and better assure sustainability going forward as we continue to face declining enrollment."

School districts stand to see significant tax breaks if their merger plans are approved before July 1, 2016.

Many districts were racing to get their plans before the State Board this month in order to have the merger proposals considered at town meeting in March.

Donna Russo Savage, an assistant to the Secretary of Education on the school governance issue, says the board could see up to four more plans before the July 1 deadline.

"Currently, each separate district sinks or swims on its own. Together we can offer more to students, do it more efficiently, and better assure sustainability going forward as we continue to face declining enrollment." — Chris Kayhart, Addison Northwest Act 46 Study Committee Chairman

Those plans would need to be approved at special town meetings, and she says additional work continues throughout the state.

"There are many other regional conversations going on," she said. "For example, [in] Barre Town and City, Bennington-Rutland area. It's kind of exciting that these things are all happening at the same time."

All of the school district merger plans that are approved by the State Board must also be approved by voters in each school district.

The proposed unified districts are scheduling public information sessions in the coming weeks to sell their plans to the voters.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state. 
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