The Vermont State Board of Education has released a schedule for its three regional meetings to collect local testimony on the statewide Act 46 merger plan that was recently released by the Agency of Education.
The board will meet on the following dates:
- July 18 at Newark School in Caledonia County
- Aug. 15 at the Statehouse in Montpelier
- Sept. 19 at Green Mountain High School in Chester
Act 46 is Vermont’s school district consolidation law that was signed in 2015.
Over the past few years, voters in 146 towns have approved a school district consolidation plan, according to the Agency of Education — about 68 percent of the students in the state now live in a district that voted to merge.
But there were another 44 districts that did not want to merge, and last week acting Secretary of Education Heather Bouchey released her plan which says 18 of those districts should be forced to merge.
More from VPR — Vermonters React To Education Agency's Statewide Merger Proposal, Required By Act 46 [June 5]
The report was released after months of meetings between Agency of Education staff and local school board and community representatives.
In most cases the school board members were trying to convince the agency to allow the school boards to remain independent and not merge, but in the statewide plan the secretary of education presented her recommendations for forced mergers.
The upcoming meetings will give those school boards one more chance to convince the State Board of Education not to force them to merge with their neighbors.
State Board of Education chairwoman Krista Huling said Friday that the board will not issue any decisions at the summer meetings.
“We have to be mindful that we’re not endorsing or supporting, because we need to listen to the full testimony," Huling said. "And so I know that people are looking for us to say one thing or another, but I think we’re really in the inquiry phase."
The plan that was released last week by the agency is a recommendation; the state board will issue a draft plan in October.
The final statewide plan must be finished before Nov. 30.