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Failed Vote Gets Cambridge Elementary School Out Of State-Imposed District Merger

Eden Town Clerk Candy Vear, left, and Waterville Town Clerk Nancy LaRose, right, count ballots in the Lamoille Union High School library.
Amy Kolb Noyes
Eden Town Clerk Candy Vear, left, and Waterville Town Clerk Nancy LaRose, right, count ballots in the Lamoille Union High School library Tuesday.

An Act 46 vote held in a half-dozen Lamoille County towns Tuesday could spell the defeat of a state-ordered school district merger.

The question put to voters was whether the Lamoille North Modified Unified Union School District would allow the Cambridge Elementary School District to join.

"We had a total of 542 ballots: 191 in favor, 350 opposed, one spoiled. So, it loses by a big margin," said Donna Griffiths, clerk of the Lamoille North district, when announcing Tuesday's vote.

With the result being a resounding no, a merger ordered by the State Board of Education won't happen — at least for now.

This is just the latest event in a complicated saga.

Back in 2016, and again in 2017, the Cambridge Elementary District voted not to go along when its supervisory union merged into one district — even though the town is a member of the district for its secondary students, who go to Lamoille Union Middle and High School.

Then last fall the State Board of Education overruled Cambridge Elementary's decision to go rogue. The board ordered them to join the unified district, on one condition: that voters from all the district's towns would accept them. And that’s the vote that was held, and failed, on Tuesday.

The ballots from all six towns — Belvidere, Cambridge, Eden, Hyde Park, Johnson and Waterville — were co-mingled, so it’s impossible to determine vote tallies for individual towns. However, it’s safe to say voter turnout was a factor.

In Cambridge there were 319 voters who cast ballots, indicating about a 10 percent turnout. In the other five towns combined, a total of 223 voters turned out.

Eden Town Clerk Candy Vear called turnout in her town "terrible" — by the end of the day, less than 3 percent of Eden's voters cast ballots. Many people, Vear said, had no idea the vote was happening.

Despite the result of Tuesday's vote, the towns may not be done with the issue yet. The Agency of Education left open the possibility of a new vote to reconsider the consolidation.

But if that doesn't happen, Cambridge Elementary will continue as a standalone school district.

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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