Wednesday July 13, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- Voters in Wilmington and Whitingham voted in favor of consolidating three schools into two during a special Australian Ballot vote Tuesday night.

"I'm pleased with the vote results," Twin Valley School Board Chairman Seth Boyd told the Reformer after the numbers came in.

"It has been a very long road," he said. "Now I feel we have a direction to move forward."

For a number of years, the two towns have been grappling with how, and even whether, they should consolidate their two elementary schools, middle school and high school as a means to save money.

Voters had two articles to vote on Tuesday night.

First, if the proposed amendment to the Joint School Agreement, which would create a single "superboard" comprised of three Wilmington residents and two Whitingham residents, should be approved.

The measure passed by a wide margin in Whitingham, with 161 approving the merger and 59 voting against it. The vote was much closer in Wilmington, 208-194, but still the consolidation option passed in both towns.

Now that the joint board has been approved, several residents from each town could be asked to assist the board with facilities management and oversight, curriculum development and academic standards, budget, financial and negotiations, special projects and initiatives, development between parents and teachers, and as legislative liaisons.

The second article on Tuesday's ballot asked voters to choose one of two consolidation plans.

In the first option, the Wilmington and Whitingham elementary schools would be housed in an expanded Wilmington Elementary school building and the middle and high schools would be housed in an expanded Whitingham school, which would cause the closing of the Twin Valley High School.

The second option would consolidate both towns' elementary schools in Whitingham and the middle and high schools would be housed in an expanded and renovated Twin Valley High School, which would cause the Deerfield Valley Elementary School to be closed.

The majority of voters in both towns selected Option A - putting the elementary students in Wilmington, and the middle and high school students in Whitingham. The vote in Wilmington was 129 in favor of Option A, and 107 in favor of Option B. In Whitingham, 134 voters selection Option A and 68 voted for Option B.

"I was pleased it was a decisive vote in each town and not split," said Boyd. "We almost set a precedent in Vermont that schools can work together."