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Stowe votes to scrap Act 46 merger

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 5:52 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 5:17 AM EDT
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STOWE, Vt. (WCAX) - Voters in Stowe on Tuesday decided to withdraw from the Lamoille South Unified Union School District by a margin of 1,068 to 464.

In 2019, the state forced Stowe, Morristown and Elmore to merge under Act 46. The districts appealed the decision to the State Board of Education twice and lost a lawsuit disputing the merger.

“There’s definitely a group of people in Stowe who feel that a separation is the way to go,” said David Bickford, the chair of the Lamoille South Unified School District Board.

As of Tuesday afternoon, about 25% of the registered voters in Stowe submitted an absentee ballot or showed up in person to vote.

“I think this is a very good turnout,” Stowe Assistant Town Clerk Teresa Hoadley said.

Reaction at the polling station in Stowe appeared evenly split.

“Both schools are well developed in their own educational systems and that they should stay separate and do their own thing,” said Lynne Rogers of Stowe, who is among a faction that says the merger takes opportunities away from their children, including eliminating some AP classes.

She says the merger also eliminated the local sports teams’ crosstown rivalry.

“It’s also about the state mandating things that towns don’t want to have happen,” Rogers said.

But Marina Meerberg is among those who argue against withdrawing from the merger.

“I believe they want to have good education for their children as much as we do and I think if we want to argue issues with the state we might be stronger together,” Meerberg said.

Meerberg points out it’s only been about a-year-and-half since the merger took effect and there is not enough data to support separation.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I don’t think it’s working for Morristown or Stowe,” said Sam Guy of Morrisville.

Bickford says when the unification happened, Elmore and Morristown faced a tax increase and Stowe saw a tax decrease.

But this time around, Guy says people in Morristown are not discussing Stowe’s vote as they did back in 2019.

“Actually, I haven’t heard a lot of people. I know when they were fighting it a year ago there was a lot of talk about it and didn’t want the merger to happen to begin with,” he said.

Now that Stowe has approved the split, it will go to Elmore and Morristown for a vote.

“I can’t begin to predict how that is going to turn out,” Bickford said.

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