Should Vt. consolidate school districts? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Should Vt. consolidate school districts?

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Could some Vermont school districts be heading for the chopping block? Tuesday night the idea of district reorganization was up for debate at the Statehouse.

It was a split crowd at the Statehouse, as nearly 40 people sounded off on school district consolidation.

"This really is cutting down on superintendents. It's also cutting down, I think, on some boards," said Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington.

Vermont currently has 273 school districts and 60 supervisory unions. A bill in the House Education Committee is proposing to cut down on those numbers by combining districts.

"Pre-K through 12 school districts throughout the state of Vermont with one board, one superintendent -- and that is really going to expedite governance," Donovan said.

An idea that many supported.

"I support the proposed governance changes because I believe they will afford the very best, most equal educational opportunities for all our students," said Superintendent Elaine Pinckney of the Chittenden South Supervisory Union.

While others disagreed.

"One size does not fit all; every school and supervisory union is unique. In our local boards, there is a rich deep cadre of engaged, knowledgeable, motivated and innovative people who work within the context of their local circumstances. This resource will be lost if local boards are eliminated," said Milan Miller of Williamstown.

The bill is a work in progress, and the final number of proposed districts has not been set.

"We need more study about the best learning environments for age groups of children, optimum class sizes and school sizes for success, and transportation issues," said Alison Anand of Richmond.

Donovan says it is not yet clear what the economic impact of consolidating districts would be, but argues the move could help share resources across the state.

"And we are not -- I must repeat this, we are not talking about closing schools. And again, I must say that I think expanded school districts may indeed protect small schools," said Donovan.

Representative Donovan says the committee will vote on this bill within the next day or so. If passed, it will then head to the Senate.

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