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Several Vermont towns have scheduled votes to withdraw from unified school districts

Dec. 28, 2020
State officials say the dissolution of a unified district earlier this year could lead to more efforts to break up districts.

At least four towns across Vermont are scheduled to vote in the coming weeks on whether to secede from their unified school districts.

Vtdigger.com reports that the secession votes are not unexpected—when the State Board of Education approved the dissolution of the Southern Valley Unified Union School District earlier this year, many speculated more secession attempts would follow.

The State Board has said the law used to dissolve the district appears to conflict with the intent of Act 46, which lawmakers approved several years ago to encourage school district consolidation.

The town of Westminster is set to vote Jan. 5 on secession. If Westminster’s vote is to secede, Athens and Grafton will schedule their own. If residents there vote to dissolve the district, the matter will then go to the State Board of Education.

A withdrawal vote is also set for Dec. 29 in Newbury, which with Bradford forms the Oxbow Unified Union School District. The district oversees two elementary schools, a union high school and a technical center.

Two secession votes are also scheduled for early January in the Addison Central School District towns of Ripton and Weybridge. The seven-town school district, which serves Middlebury and surrounding communities, is contemplating closing three or four of its elementary schools in a bid to save money as enrollments decline. The elementary schools in Ripton and Weybridge, which each served about 50 students last year, are both on the chopping block.

The secession votes are being pitched as an attempt to save the towns’ small schools. But some warn the move is misguided, and the schools will not be financially viable in stand-alone districts.

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