Windham residents debate the pros and cons of closing the elementary school at a meeting on Aug. 28.

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WINDHAM — Voters narrowly approved an article to close Windham Elementary School at the end of the current school year and adopt school choice for grades K-6, but defeated an article that would authorize the School Board to pay tuition for students at an approved independent elementary school or an independent school meeting education quality standards.

Town Clerk Mike McLaine said Article 1 passed 137-135 and Article 2 failed 146-121. Out of 362 registered voters in town, 272 participated in Tuesday’s special election.

“All I can say is we are very happy that we were supported by so many people in our town,” said Crystal Corriveau, a parent. “I will be glad to have all my children in the town of Townshend. It will be easier with sports and other programs we join in Townshend. They won’t miss half of soccer practice next year or other activities we don’t have here.”

Erin Kehoe, another parent, thanked voters who turned out and recognized parents in Windham wanted change.

“After marginally losing on the last few votes, the parents of the town have tried hard to get people to come out and cast ballots for this vote,” she said.

It’s unclear how the tuition issue for independent schools will be resolved.

“It’s a very unanticipated result,” McLaine said. “I didn’t contemplate whether there was a yes on one and a no on two. I don’t know the answer.”

One potentiality McLaine offered would have the district paying tuition to public schools but not independent schools. That’s what School Board Chairwoman Beth MacDonald also believes would be the case.

School Board Vice Chairwoman and State Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham-3, previously spoke about her concerns with Article 2. She said a future board could approve a very high tuition rate if someone wants their child to go to a special school.

Windham is part of Windham Central Supervisory Union, she said in support of keeping the school open, “and we meet all of the curriculum and testing requirements other schools do.” It also is part of the West River Education District, sending students to Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend after elementary school.

“We are petitioning for a revote,” said Howard Ires, who represents Windham on the West River Education District board.

Partridge said several people thought they were voting to keep the school open but voted the opposite way. She called the Zoom portion of the informational meeting “significantly botched.”

“People were bounced off the meeting multiple times, Zoom participants couldn’t hear what was being said in the room, and people in the room had a hard time hearing what Zoom participants were saying,” she said. Board member “Russ Cumming wasn’t able to share the recording so people who couldn’t attend weren’t able to view it.”

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McLaine was unsure how a recount or revote could occur.

“I’ve never had a contentious issue before,” he said.

He said he would have to consult with the Secretary of State’s Office and election law.

MacDonald believes there’s a petition for a recount coming before one for a revote.

“A lot of people were confused by the ballot language,” she said. “I had a couple of people who called or people I’d see in town who didn’t understand the way it was worded.”

MacDonald said she thinks a revote would be “based on the same language but hopefully it will give more people time to understand what it means.”

“We had the Australian ballots so ballots were sent to homes before we had some meetings,” she said, referring to early voting.

From the beginning, MacDonald said, she wanted broad participation and the best information made available to voters.

“I don’t feel like that’s happened,” she said. “As sad as I am that it went down, the vote, because it’s so close, [the revote is] the next step. It needs to happen so everyone feels like we’ve done our job.”

MacDonald said she’s disappointed about the recording of the informational meeting being lost because several students and the school principal “spoke so amazing, so poised and so heartful.”

“That just bums me out,” she said, adding that she had difficulties understanding why Vermonters value small businesses and local farms but feel uncomfortable with small schools. "I'm disappointed in the townspeople who chose to move to Windham, retire in Windham, because they love it here and think it's beautiful but somehow believe they have superior knowledge. They pass judgement, with little to no first hand knowledge, nor participation in our beautiful, little elementary school. They champion choice but remove choice from young families and children who are happy at WES. WES honors the traditional, small schools of the past while offering progressive, individualized instruction to meet each child's needs."

If the matter comes up for a revote, MacDonald expects another informational meeting would be required by law.