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Information meeting on Addison school district withdrawal set for Sept. 21

ADDISON — An informational meeting on the revote that is a potential first step toward Addison’s withdrawal from the Addison Northwest School District has been confirmed for Addison Central School at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Voting on whether to overturn Addison voters’ initial decision to stay in the ANWSD will be held on Oct. 5 at the Addison Town Clerk’s Office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A July 13 vote to reject withdrawal went 122-106 against in 20% turnout, but that result was successfully petitioned for revote.

The question on the Oct. 5 ballot will again be: “Shall the Town of Addison Withdraw from the Addison Northwest School District?”

Addison selectboard members and the group that helped organize the petition drive and the Sept. 21 meeting, Educate Addison, intend the forum to shed light on what withdrawal could look like, including tuitioning some or all of its students to existing school districts, including ANWSD, or possibly founding an independent school or town academy.

According to the Addison selectboard email to media sources, members of the ANWSD; school choice/education expert Tom Martin; Granville Hancock School District Board Chair Stacey Peters (that district tuitions all of its students); and lawyer David Kelley “have been invited to the meeting to clarify Addison’s education options.”

According to the email, “Information will be presented from experts & the audience will have the opportunity for public comment and questions.”

ANWSD Board Chair John Stroup first told the Independent that he and ANWSD director of finance and operations Elizabeth Jennings would attend the meeting, but later said they would not because ANWSD officials believed the meeting was not within the state-mandated 10 days before the Oct. 5 vote. The Addison Selectboard is taking steps to warn a second meeting for Sept. 28, which Stroup said ANWSD would be willing to attend.

A member of Educate Addison said the ANWSD representatives would have been welcome at the informational meeting before the first vote, although they did not attend.

According to the selectboard email, residents can also submit questions in advance via email to [email protected]. They are also welcome to attend the meeting via Zoom by logging onto addisonvt.net.

The board also reminded residents they can register to vote at the clerk’s office or request an absentee ballot at 759-2020.

A petition calling for the revote containing 135 signatures arrived at the clerk’s office in early August. Only around 50 signatures were needed to trigger a second vote on the question.

The bar to begin a withdrawal process will be set higher for the revote: State law requires a two-thirds majority to overturn an initial 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. Ballots would not be commingled — a no vote in any of the towns would end Addison’s withdrawal bid. 

If the other towns approve, then the Vermont Board of Education would also have to support Addison’s exit, and any financial issues would have to be worked out.

The town’s withdrawal could mean affiliation with a school district or supervisory union to deal with special education, transportation and other matters, or require Addison to create a bureaucracy to handle those and other issues on its own.

Ripton successfully navigated that withdrawal process in the Addison Central School District, and is currently at the stage of working out how it will manager special education etc. (see story on Page 1A). In the Mount Abraham Unified Union District, Lincoln has voted to leave, and Starksboro is considering holding such a vote.

Weybridge voters rejected a proposal for that town to leave the ACSD.

Withdrawal is more complicated in Addison than in Ripton because ANWSD owns the Addison Central School building and has repurposed it as a special education hub serving all of Addison County. ANWSD is under no obligation to return ACS to the town. The Vermont Board of Education is also recently encouraging Ripton to re-engage with ACSD, and Ripton has found it difficult to find a school district to work with to provide administrative support. 

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