Five district consolidation votes were held on Vermont’s Town Meeting Day, and support for the mergers was widespread throughout the state.
On Tuesday, voters in the Addison Northwest, Franklin Central, Addison Central, Orange Southwest, and Rutland South districts weighed in on merger proposals. Every merger plan passed by a wide margin.
Under Act 46, districts that are able to get a consolidation plan approved before July 1 receive tax breaks.
So districts that wanted to get their proposed plans in front of the voters figured Town Meeting Day was a good chance to do so.
In Rutland South, 84 percent of the votes cast in Clarendon, Wallingford, Tinmouth and Shrewsbury supported the plan.
Rutland South Superintendent David Younce says district officials held a series of informational meetings, and worked hard to reach out to all four towns to explain the law.
"I think the hard work of our study committee, the effort to communicate with folks about the reality of the act, and about the proposal, I think once people heard the details, I think it made sense,” Younce says. “And the voters' reaction bore that out."
In Franklin Central, the Fairfield Town, and St. Albans City and Town districts overwhelmingly supported the merger plan by a margin of more than two-to-one.
The five votes across the state Tuesday represented about 7,000 students, or about 8 percent of the students statewide, so a lot was at stake.
Explore the status of district merger plans and proposals around the state:
JoAn Canning is superintendent in Addison Northwest, where voters in Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham supported a merger plan by 71 percent.
Canning says consolidating school districts is a way to strengthen the schools as student counts go down.
"We're continuing to see some declining enrollment, and we'll be able to use staff and share resources across our supervisory union,” Canning says.
Under Act 46 districts have to present their plans to the State Board of Education before a vote.
The State Board already approved plans for Lamoille North and Addison Rutland and those districts will vote on April 2.
Three consolidation plans have already been approved in the Elmore-Morristown, Essex-Westford and Rutland Northeast districts.
And the Agency of Education says another four or five districts could hold votes before the July 1 deadline.