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Forced district mergers on hold in Vermont as lawyers continue talks

Some districts have gone to court to stop the state from forcing mergers under so-called Act 46 legislation.

The forced mergers of many school districts in Vermont have been put on hold after lawyers for the state and some of the affected districts agreed to a delay.

Vermont Public Radio reports that an agreement has been reached between the state Attorney General’s Office and a group of school districts that have sought to block the State Board of Education’s statewide school merger plan. Some of the districts opposing the merger filed an appeal in late December in Washington County Superior Court to stop the consolidations.

The agreement puts the forced mergers on hold until at least Feb. 15.

Legislation to require mergers of some school districts, referred to as Act 46, was enacted in 2015. It provided incentives for districts to merge voluntarily and called for consolidation of school systems that were still operating at less-than-desired efficiency.

The state school board voted in November to require the consolidation of several districts that have not merged or developed an alternative governance structure.

The districts trying to stop the mergers have asked for a court injunction, which would put a longer hold on the process, but the judge in the case has not yet ruled on that request.

David Kelley, one of the attorneys representing the school districts, says the agreement with the attorney general's office slows down the merger process and gives the two sides more time to work with the court.

School districts were planning to hold special meetings in the coming weeks to elect board members to the newly merged school boards, but those elections are also now on hold.

 

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