SHAFTSBURY >> After the Bennington School Board announced last week that they were looking into seceding from the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and forming their own school district, the Shaftsbury School Board has begun to discuss alternate options for how they can come into compliance with Act 46 without Bennington.
Jeff Leake, who serves on the SVSU's Act 46 Study Committee, said that the committee has not met since last week, when the BSD board made that decision, and as such he could not give any insight into what the other small districts in the SVSU, Pownal, Woodford, and North Bennington, are thinking. Board chairman Fran Kinney said that Dawn Hoyt of the Arlington School Board had reached out to him recently to say that Arlington remains interested in Shaftsbury as a potential consolidation partner under the 2015 law.
"I was at the BSD board meeting last night," said former board member Larry Johnson, who was defeated by Ed Molloy in a close race 266-241 earlier this month, "It does open the door up to us to do our own study, or perhaps collaborate with the other schools in the district that are outside the BSD."
The board discussed hiring their own consultant to help them better work through their options. Only one state consultant has been willing to come this far south and is currently working with Arlington, SVSU superintendent Jim Culkeen has said in the past, so scheduling has been difficult. Additionally, grant funds are available from the state for boards to form a study committee hire a consultant, but districts can only be a part of one study committee at a time. In order to use state funding to hire a consultant, Shaftsbury would have to withdraw from the SVSU study committee and form their own committee. North Bennington is currently considering similar options.
"We could form a RED, a regional education district, with three other schools in the area," suggested Johnson, "The kicker seems to be North Bennington, who doesn't operate their own school. They're the ones who have thrown us a little bit out of sync in some of the things we've considered. But, what happens if that entire RED has school choice? Does that create an opening for North Bennington to co-exist with the other three schools?" Leake suggested a side-by-side configuration could also be acceptable to the state.
The Shaftsbury Select Board meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall on Buck Hill Road in Shaftsbury. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.