Act 46: Jamaica to vote on leaving Leland & Gray Union

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JAMAICA — School Board members are preparing for a vote after surveying residents about potential steps forward with regard to Act 46, the education law mandating district consolidation statewide.

"They want to determine a date they can hold a vote on a motion to withdraw from the Leland & Gray Union," Windham Central Supervisory Union Superintendent Steven John said Tuesday. "It happens so rarely."

Of those surveyed in Jamaica, 60 percent of the respondents wanted the board to look at one of three options which focus on joining districts offering school choice after elementary school.

"The board agreed that it is important to have a clearer and broader picture of the Jamaica voters' preference and has voted to conduct a town-wide vote, which it plans to hold as soon as possible," the board wrote in a press release.

The board also voted to join a study committee looking at the formation of a pre-k through 12th grade district with member districts of the Leland & Gray Union. Newfane, Townshend, Brookline, Townshend, Jamaica and Windham currently send their kids to Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, and are part of the WCSU. John said he was still waiting to hear whether Windham would participate in the study.

The Australian-ballot vote to decide whether Jamaica residents want to leave the Leland & Gray Union must be warned 30 to 40 days beforehand. The other four towns in the union would have to approve of Jamaica's withdrawal in a vote later on.

Besides the obvious challenge in funding the middle and high school without one of the districts, there's the issue of keeping it open.

"The logic is that if a school's already small and gets smaller, that's not going to be helpful," said John. "But the Jamaica board wants to know where people stand."

The vote for Jamaica to join the Leland & Gray study occurred after a meeting on May 17, where Act 46 Exploratory Committee members recommended entering the study committee based on the results of a survey.

"We had a number of people volunteer to be on committees to research all the options," Jamaica Village School Board Chairwoman Stephanie Amyot told the Reformer before the meeting. "We've been doing that all winter."

Of the four options, the board said the Leland and Gray Union option received the greatest number of votes.

Looking at districts hoping to preserve school choice, one option could see Jamaica studying a merger with Wardsboro and Dover. Both districts also are in the WCSU. Consolidation studies with districts near Manchester, which are in the Flood Brook Union School District, could be pursued. And Jamaica could also join Stratton, another district in the supervisory union, which is in talks with Winhall and Searsburg about potential merger studies. Winhall is in the Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union and Searsburg is part of the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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