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WESTMINSTER -- Voters spoke loud and clear Tuesday that they want to return to their own, stand-alone independent school district.

On two votes, 200-58 and 219-35, Westminster voters endorsed a move to break up the Windham Northeast Elementary Union School District, which was created by an order by the Vermont Board of Education under Act 46.

The overwhelming Westminster vote sets the stage for votes in Grafton and Athens, which were forced into the elementary school union district in 2018.

Westminster, Grafton and Athens lobbied the state Board of Education in 2018 against the forced merger, saying the three towns were too distant from each other, among other concerns. All three towns were part of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Act 46. Last year, the Vermont Supreme Court, on a close 3-2 vote, upheld the constitutionality of the controversial law.

Previously, Chairman Jack Bryar of Grafton said he hoped to have the Grafton and Athens school districts vote at Town Meeting in March. By state law, the other towns in the school district must vote within 90 days, on the same date.

The vote was petitioned last year, and the Westminster Select Board set the vote for early January, to avoid any changes in Act 46.

This story will be updated.

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