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Addison sets revote on leaving ANWSD

ADDISON — The revote in Addison on whether the town should leave the Addison Northwest School District will be held on Oct. 5, less than three months after the withdrawal measure lost by 16 votes on July 13.

Voting that day will be held at the town clerk’s office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Addison selectboard chose that date at a special meeting this past Friday, Aug. 20. At that meeting, the board also picked 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 as the time and date for a related “informational meeting and educational forum” and decided to send out postcards to registered voters.

According to Town Clerk Marilla Webb, the board hopes to hold the meeting at the former Addison Central School (ACS) and has asked her to work with ANWSD officials to make arrangements.

ANWSD owns the town’s elementary school building and has repurposed it into a special education hub that serves all the county districts; Addison’s K-6 students now attend Vergennes Union Elementary School. Many Addison residents disagreed with that decision; they had voted overwhelmingly to keep ACS open in November 2019.

Before the July 13 vote, the selectboard held its informational meeting at the town’s fire station.

The board held its Aug. 20 special meeting in response to a citizen petition containing 135 signatures that sought reconsideration of the July 13 vote that went against withdrawal, 122-106, in 20% turnout.

The Addison selectboard had scheduled the first vote in response to an earlier resident petition. Board members also followed a recommendation in favor of withdrawal made by a board-appointed study committee.

The bar for withdrawal will be higher for the revote. According to Addison officials, state law requires a two-thirds majority to overturn an initial petitioned ballot result.

If that hurdle is cleared, then residents of the other four ANWSD communities — Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham — would all have to back Addison’s departure in separate votes. Finally, the Vermont Board of Education would also have to support Addison’s withdrawal.

There is precedent: Ripton successfully navigated that process in leaving the Addison Central School District, with one minor financial question remaining (See story on Page 2A).

Also, in the Mount Abraham Unified School District, Lincoln voted on withdrawal from that district on Tuesday (See story on Page 1A), and Starksboro recently held to meeting to discuss leaving.

A vote for Weybridge to withdraw from its multi-town school district was defeated in January.

A group calling itself “Educate Addison” sponsored the second petition drive and said in a Front Porch Forum post that it would schedule a “public forum with experts in education to answer your questions.” Group member Carol Kaufmann said in an email those experts will include some from towns that now tuition their students to other districts.

Given that Addison doesn’t own ACS, if withdrawal is successful then tuitioning its students to ANWSD and other neighboring districts is a real possibility — as 93 Vermont towns do that now, to some extent. That is, unless the town can successfully negotiate the return of its elementary school or move to form a state-approved independent school or town academy.

If Addison does tuition students, the Agency of Education charges tuition on a per capita basis to the towns, which also must elect school boards to coordinate billing, special education and other organizational issues.

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