Vermont Board of Education OKs Windsor, West Windsor Merger Plan

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 1/17/2018 11:44:45 PM
Modified: 1/17/2018 11:44:52 PM

Windsor — The state Board of Education unanimously approved the proposed merger of the West Windsor and Windsor school districts at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The proposal now will go to voters in both towns in March, and if approved, the new unified union school district would begin a transition year on July 1 and become fully operational a year later.

Less certain is the fate of the other two towns in the Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, Weathersfield and Hartland. Both are seeking to remain as standalone K-8 districts, which would allow them to retain high school choice.

Supervisory Union Superintendent David Baker said on Wednesday he believes the state Board of Education will make a decision in June on the roughly 75 to 80 districts statewide that have presented an alternative structure or have not done anything to comply with Act 46.

Passed in 2015, Act 46 requirements are expected to reduce per pupil and administrative costs and expand educational opportunities by consolidating districts to a minimum enrollment of 900 students.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Baker said, School Board Chairwomen Amy McMullen, of Windsor, and Elizabeth Burrows, of West Windsor, gave some brief opening remarks on the merger.

“There were a couple of questions, but nothing major,” Baker said, before the board approved the merger.

He said Burrows told the board she thought West Windsor voters would approve a merger, even though it would mean an end to school choice after sixth grade, because it probably will ensure the continued existence of the Albert Bridge School and that is a better opportunity for West Windsor students.

A provision of the merger agreement states that “no school would be closed within the first four years unless approved by the voters of the town in which it is located.”

Subsequently, the unified school board, made up of three members from each town, could close a school with a two-thirds vote, but that decision still would need a majority vote of residents in the unified district.

The merger vote at Town Meeting on March 6 is the final step in a process that began about two years ago, when the four school districts began meeting to figure out how to best meet the goals of Act. 46.

Preferred structures under Act, 46, including a unified district of all four towns with all students attending high school in Windsor, and mergers of Hartland and Weathersfield, and West Windsor and Windsor, did not have the support of a majority of school board members and other representatives in each town.

In the end, the committee’s proposal stated that merging West Windsor and Windsor while leaving Hartland and Weathersfield as autonomous within the Supervisory Union was the “best means for achieving the goals of Act 46 in our region.”

West Windsor students will attend school in Windsor after sixth grade, but one of the expected benefits to West Windsor is a projected sharp decrease in education taxes. West Windsor students currently in grade six and up will retain choice as part of the merger agreement and their tuition will be paid for by the unified district.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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