Limited schools merger recommended for districts in Bennington County

This article originally appeared June 3 in the Bennington Banner.

A long-awaited report from Vermont’s education secretary recommends the merger of the Bennington Incorporated District, the Pownal Elementary District, the Shaftsbury Elementary District and the Woodford Elementary District into a single union elementary school district.

At the same time, the report acknowledges that the state Board of Education lacks the authority to compel a merger of the Mount Anthony Union High School District and all five of its member elementary school districts into a single, unified union school district.

In all, Acting Education Secretary Heather Bouchey recommended 18 consolidations, under a mandate written into the school district consolidation law, Act 46. In some cases, the secretary recommends that groups of districts come together, and in other cases, she has asked rural districts to pair up.

A total of 43 districts or groups of districts that filed “Section 9” proposals were included in the report, which is 189 pages long and was released Friday evening. The recommendations will be reviewed by the State Board of Education, which will release a final plan at the end of November.

“The Bennington, Shaftsbury, and Woodford Boards propose that the State Board require the Mount Anthony Union School District and its member elementary districts to form a unified union school district as contemplated by the study committee’s proposal presented to the voters in November,” the report states.

“The boards of the three districts observed that it made sense to model a unified board’s structure on the Hybrid Model – a structure the union high school has used successfully for many years. The Bennington Board Members noted that their voters approved merger by a three-to-one margin, even though this hybrid model results in a smaller ‘voice’ for Bennington residents on the unified board,” the report states.

Read full story at the Bennington Banner.

(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)

Image courtesy of Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union