Q & A
These are questions that we've heard from voters about how the proposed merger will impact our students & communities. We'll be updating this page as issues evolve.
What would merging actually mean?
1 board for 9 towns with “weighted voting” (e.g. Bristol’s voting weight = 22%; for each of the following towns, voting weight is 10% or less: Addison, New Haven, Panton, Starksboro and Waltham)
1 school and superintendents office budget for all 9 towns, with a yearly budget of 60 million dollars.
The new school district would own all school property in all 9 towns.
During the first 4 years, no elementary school could be closed without a vote of its town. However, the new merged school district could reconfigure any school, such as removing up to 3 grades from the elementary school, without the vote of the town, even in the first year of the merger. After those first 4 years, any school could be closed with a two-thirds vote of the ANSD Board and a two-thirds vote of voters across the entire school district. As Starksboro discovered in the withdrawal ratification vote, the school district Board and Administration has the power and authority to influence the outcome of a school closure vote despite the concerted efforts of the impacted townspeople.
Although the MSC insists the new merged board will be making the big decisions with lots of public input, it has been clear all along (as spelled out in the MSC's report to the Vermont State Board of Education), that the intent for the near future is to:
move all 6th grades out of elementary schools into a merged Middle School located in Vergennes or Bristol.
merge high schools and educate all 9th-12th graders in Bristol or Vergennes.
merge superintendents’ offices (no indication yet where this would be located).
How would the merger affect the length of bus rides and school start and end times for students?
The Merger Study Committee claims that current ride times can be maintained, on average, through a shuttle between MAUHS and VUHS campuses and slight adjustments to school start times.
However, based on distances, middle school (6th-8th grade) students who live furthest from Vergennes, and high school (9th-12th grade) students who live furthest from Bristol would be most likely to be impacted by longer bus rides. Merging would mean that more MAUSD and ANWSD grades 6-12 students will experience bus rides of more than 90 minutes a day, at a cost of up to $3,272,500 each year. The school district has not yet responded to community questions and concerns about the details of its transportation plan.
How would merging affect teaching and learning in the 5 towns of MAUSD?
The Merger Study Committee Q&A document claims that there would be no major curricular changes or changes to graduation requirements in the first year of operations. After that, administrators would be charged with making adjustments, over several years, to implement a common, standardized curriculum across 6 elementary schools, and for all 6th-12th grade students in the 9 towns.
What would merging mean for teachers?
In the first year of operation of the new district, teachers and staff would be assigned to the site they would have been assigned to prior to the merger, unless the district and the employee Association may agree to modifications or reassignment based on individual staff and school district circumstances and needs. After the first year, teachers and support staff could be assigned to any school in the district. A new, merged contract would most likely mean that teachers and support staff with seniority would have “bumping” rights across all schools in the district. In this case, for example, if there was a reduction in force in one school, a teacher with seniority losing his/her position would be able to “bump” a similarly licensed teacher in another school out of a job.
What are some of the other disadvantages of merging?
There are many additional disadvantages to merging governance of MAUSD and ANWSD at this time. Some of these disadvantages can be found in a separate document titled “9 Good Reasons to Vote No”.
What are the advantages of merging?
This is a difficult question to answer. All of the claims about the advantages of merging (expanding programming for middle and high school students; increasing cost-effectiveness; slowing tax rate growth; increasing equity; and ensuring that all students have access to engaging, relevant and high-quality learning opportunities) are advantages that can be achieved without merging governance. There are so many ways to achieve these outcomes, (including, but not limited to, expanding collaborative programs between MAUSD and ANWSD) it is hard to understand why anyone believes that now is the time to take the radical, risky and unpopular step of forming a whole new, more remote governance structure.
What will happen if voters reject the merger?
MAUSD and ANWSD would remain separate school districts. Of course, the two districts could and should explore and implement a variety of ways to collaborate to save costs and enhance opportunities for students without merging.
MAUSD would continue work on implementing other components from the New Solutions K-12 study. This 2021 report projected potential annual savings of $3,269,000 that could be realized without merging with ANWSD, without closing elementary schools, and without moving all 6th graders to the middle school.
How would merging affect our taxes?
MAUSD and ANWSD administrators and school board members all grant that merging will not reduce school taxes. They claim that merging will slow school tax increases, but evidence on that claim has not yet been made public.