Arlington to consider joining three-by-one

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ARLINGTON — Now that the school districts of Sandgate, Stratton, and Winhall appear poised to move forward with a merger, Arlington will have to make the decision whether or not to join them.

Last week, representatives from Sandgate, Stratton, and Winhall authorized Act 46 consultant Dan French to move forward with formally drafting articles of agreement for a merger between the three districts. French, who was previously superintendent of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union and as an Act 46 consultant has helped draft articles for the Taconic and Green Regional Education District and the Mount Anthony Union District, will present his final articles for adoption at the committee's September meeting.

Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union Superintendent William Bazyk was present at that meeting. Arlington is listed as "advisable" in the draft worksheet French submitted to the committee last week, while the other three districts are all "necessary." This means that if any of the Sandgate, Stratton, and Winhall vote it down, it will fail, but the merger will continue if Arlington votes no. An election is tentatively scheduled for late November.

"They obviously really strongly want us," said Bazyk, noting that without Arlington the new district will not meet the prerequisites receiving the tax incentives. He suggested holding two community forums in Arlington prior to warning an election. "They are going together, and we have a month to go ahead and determine our path and do some more studying."

None of Sandgate, Stratton, or Winhall operate schools, but if Arlington were to join the three non-operating districts it would not mean closing its schools and becoming non-operating as well. The 2017 amendment to Act 46, Act 49, allows for this "Three-by-One Side-by-Side" configuration. In this circumstance, only the merged district made up of the three non-operating districts would be eligible to receive tax incentives, but both would be exempt from the possibility of being forcibly merged with other districts when the State Board of Education releases its statewide education plan.

Arlington Board Chairwoman Nicol Whalen is working with a study group, which is not lead by the board, that is taking a broader look at Arlington's options, and hopes that that committee will have a recommendation regarding the three-by-one structure before the vote. She pointed out that there are no incentives for Arlington in joining the three-by-one, and should be open to considering any other options as well.

Whatever the outcome of the coming discussions and vote, Bazyk stressed that change was coming. "In the political climate we're in now," he said, "by 2019 we will be a different SU... We're still in control of our own destiny for a couple months, but its coming close."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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