NORTH BENNINGTON -- The Village School of North Bennington has submitted a revised independent school application that includes special education services.
Unlike the previous application submitted to the state Department of Education in the spring, the revised document calls for the school to deliver special education services and begin operating in the fall of 2013, according to Eva Sutton, co-chairwoman of Village School board.
The hope is the state Board of Education will take up the application at its Aug. 21 meeting.
Although the school always intended to offer special education services, it was unsure how the services would be delivered at the time the state Board of Education tabled the application in May. One of the hang-ups for the state board was the lack of special education in the application.
At the time, the public North Bennington Prudential Committee and the Village School were working to contract special education services for the independent school from the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union. Although those discussions began in April, an agreement has yet to be reached. The next SVSU meeting is not planned until August.
Because of the time it has already taken -- and the uncertainty that an agreement will be reached --the Village School Board of Trustees has changed its preference, and Sutton said the application includes a plan for the independent school to offer its own special education services.
"We have not had any success with the supervisory union in reaching an agreement and we had hoped to by now. ... Since there’s been no resolution we felt we should include it (special education provided by the school)," Sutton said. "I think it’s unfortunate there’s been no agreement met. ... I don’t know how confident we feel there will be one."
Sutton said the Village School contracting services from SVSU is still an option and she hopes discussions continue as planned in case the state denies the Village School’s plan to provide its own services.
State Board approval of the application, as well as public support to open the school, would likely mean the Village School would employ different special educators than are currently employed at North Bennington Graded School.
Special education staff members at NBGS are employees of SVSU, so the only way they would continue in the school if it were to offer its own special education would be if those SVSU employees resigned and then applied at the Village School. Sutton said it is likely the SVSU employees would be the first choice if they were to apply for positions at the independent school.
"Our goal has always been to have as seamless a transition as possible," she said.
Even if the Village School were to contract special education from SVSU, Sutton said there would remain a possibility the staff would not be the same.
The Village School board has not heard back from the DOE since submitting the revised application June 29, but Sutton said she hopes any questions that arise will be answered prior to the state board meeting in August. The Village School and Prudential Committee will have to finalize a lease agreement before then, which should not be difficult since a previous agreement had been finalized for this fall before the state board tabled the previous application.
Voters in the district will also have to approve closing the public school and leasing the building to the independent school in order for the change to occur in 2013. In March residents approved those changes to take place in fall 2012 by a 2-to-1 margin.
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