MONTPELIER - The State Board of Education approved the independent school application for the Village School of North Bennington Tuesday - a major step toward replacing North Bennington Graded School with an independent school by fall.
Eight months after tabling the Village School's application last May, the board voted 5-2 to approve the Village School for the 2013-14 school year following more than an hour of testimony from residents on both sides of the issue.
Approval of the Village School came after three positive votes from school district residents to authorize the Prudential Committee to close the public elementary school and lease the building to the Village School.
When the Prudential Committee will decide whether to take that action has yet to be decided. The Prudential Committee still must create a budget and see what the Village School's tuition rate will be, among other factors Chairman Raymond Mullineaux said it will consider, but the expectation is the Prudential Committee will go forward with closing the public school.
"I think we're inclined to do it because we believe in the proposals that got put forth, that they're ultimately in the best interest of the district and our students. I truly believe that this school, which is already very good, can become spectacular. That's my hope," Mullineaux said.
Even as members of the state board and Agency of Education said they do not philosophically agree with the idea of replacing a successful public school with an independent one, those same officials acknowledged the state board, by statute, had to approve the application.
"I am philosophically against what you're doing. I think it goes counter public education, it goes counter to everything I believe in," Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca said. "But my position as the secretary and the commissioner was to recommend what is within the boundaries of the law."