On May 24, 2017

School unification back on the ballot

Rochester, Royalton, Mount Holly and Ludlow to vote on measures

By Evan Johnson

Closing high schools and unifying school districts are the ballot items voters in central Vermont will confront in the coming weeks. Thanks to a measure approved by the Legislature, the deadline for towns to pass Act 46 unification measures has been extended from June 30 to November.

Rochester, Bethel, Royalton

In response to a petition, on June 13 voters in Royalton will once again weigh a measure to unify seven towns into three “side-by-side” districts. The measure had failed in April, with Royalton being the only town dissenting.

Meanwhile in Rochester, unification opponents have successfully petitioned a revote of their own.

Bethel, Rochester and Royalton must all approve the unification for it to carry. Should it fail, the results cannot be petitioned again.

The unification plan creates three small districts under the larger supervisory union. Granville and Hancock — both non-operating school districts — would tuition their students out to other schools and unify under a newly created Granville-Hancock Unified School District. Voters supported that plan in Granville and Hancock.

Chelsea and Tunbridge would create the First Branch Unified School District, operating pre-kindergarten through grade 8 with full choice for high school students.

The largest portion of the unification puzzle was for the three towns of Rochester, Bethel and Royalton, which would form the White River Valley Unified District. Each of the three towns would feature an elementary school in their community serving pre-kindergarten through grade 5 and a single middle school for the district located in Bethel (grade 6-8) and a single unified high school program centered in South Royalton. Rochester would operate an outdoor education and environmental program.

Mount Holly and Ludlow

On May 30, voters in Mount Holly and Ludlow will decide whether or not to join the the Mill River Unified Union School District. Voting to join will result in closing Ludlow’s Black River High School, transferring students to Mill River Union High School in North Clarendon. Black River has seen declining enrollment and course offerings in the past decade.

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