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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

State Board Will Finalize Act 46 Plan On Nov. 28

The State Board of Education met in Barre this week and has now made all of the decisions for the statewide Act 46 plan. The board will vote on the final plan on Nov. 28.

The State Board of Education has less than two weeks to make its final decisions on which schools it will force to merge under Act 46, Vermont's school district consolidation law.

The board met in Barre Thursday to try to finish up its work, but it has one more special meeting scheduled two days before the November 30th deadline.

Over the past few months the State Board of Education has met nearly every other week as it tried to vote on 43 different merger proposals.

At the meeting in Barre this week State Board member John O’Keefe said it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s been an interesting process, but I think it’s also been a tough one too,” O’Keefe said. “I mean there’s a lot to ponder here. The decisions that we’re making are huge decisions, I mean it impacts kids. I think whatever we come up with, I’ll be happy with it. Other people won’t be happy with it. But I think I’ll be happy with what we did here, but I think we’ll all be happy when November 30th is here as well.”

Two of the big decisions the board had to deal with this week concerned the Barre and Orleans Central supervisory unions.

The board had not weighed in on the merger proposals because there were votes held on Election Day in both communities.

"I worry that where we are headed will cause collateral damage to something that is something that's really important to all of us, and to everyone in this room, which is the will of the people." - John Carroll, State Board of Education member

Both merger plans were rejected by voters on November 6.

At the State Board meeting, the board went against the will of both sets of voters and ordered the mergers.

State Board member John Carroll said he’s struggled with making decisions that don’t align with local votes.

“I worry that where we are headed will cause collateral damage to something that is really important to all of us, and to everyone in this room, which is the will of the people,” said Carroll. “And I feel that I’m going to regret not taking into account what the people in these communities had to say to us.”

State Board Chair Krista Huling said while the work has been time consuming and challenging, school district mergers are just one strategy in dealing with Vermont’s education system.

She too was looking forward to life beyond Act 46.

“This has been our sole purpose since June,” Huling said. “We’ve not had anything else on the agenda but dealing with 46 because of this timeline. And sometimes mergers are not going to solve all of the problems and so that’s why we have to evaluate as a board, well what is the next step.”

Over the next week-and-a-half the Agency of Education will produce the final statewide plan, which will contain all of the forced mergers the State Board has decided.

The board will hold a single vote to approve the plan. The newly merged districts need be operational by July 2019.

The Regional Educational Television Network contributed to this report.

 

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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