Ludlow re-vote fails, merger will go forward, BRHS to close by mid-2020

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Stuck in snowbanks and attached to road signs, the forces of yes and no made their opinions known. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

A last ditch effort to keep Black River High School open fell short Tuesday night as the re-vote of the Ludlow/Mt. Holly merger failed.

According to Ludlow Town Clerk Ulla Cook, the vote was 288 in favor of the merger and 231 against.

Back on Nov. 28, Ludlow approved the merger by a vote of 344-172 setting into motion the creation of the Ludlow-Mount Holly Unified Union School District. The merged district was created to run the two town’s elementary schools and closing Black River High School no later than June 30, 2020. After that date, the new district would pay tuition for students in grades 7 to 12 at other high schools.

Black River students ask voters to reject the merger and keep their school open

But a petition to re-vote the question garnering 127 signatures – 47 more than needed – was submitted to the Ludlow Town Clerk on Dec. 27 and preparations to run the new district by the LMHUUSD board, which was elected as part of the Nov. 28 vote, ground to a halt.

LMHUUSD board member Paul Orzechowski told The Telegraph Tuesday night that it was a great night with a good turnout. “It shows that voters want choice, it will be great for the town, it will reduce taxes and now we can get to work finding opportunities for the kids.”

“It’s great to get this behind us,” Orzechowski added. “It feels good to move forward.”

At an informational meeting last week, Black River alum Marissa Selleck outlined the plan to create a new independent high school in Ludlow should BRHS close

Planning for the new district was not the only thing put on hold by the re-vote. Work on forming a private, independent school that would be located in Ludlow and could accept the tuitioned students also slowed as proponents waited for today’s results. Proponents of an independent school are now free to move forward.

Sharon Bixby, one of the leaders of the re-vote movement, said Tuesday night that the process has been a good civics lesson for the high school kids. “It was a good fight, we gave it our best shot and added to our totals,” said Bixby. “Once we get over the sadness, we’ll see what’s next.”

Bixby noted that the concept of an independent school faces a lot of hurdles, but that she is supportive. “I’m there to help,” said Bixby. “I want a school in Ludlow.”

Tight schedule

The ratification of the original vote does not change the timetable for the new Ludlow-Mt. Holly board, which still must be set up to operate the new district by July 1.

By comparison, the board of the new Green Mountain Unified School District, which operates Cavendish and Chester-Andover elementary schools and Green Mountain Middle/High school, began organizing itself in September 2017 and has struggled with questions of staffing, the lack of additional educational opportunities under Act 46 and a budget that is going to the voters in March but has not garnered much enthusiasm from several of its board members.

Along with the budget, the Ludlow-Mt. Holly board must also review all of its policies and procedures and put those into effect for the new district. The next meeting of the new board is 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8  at the Ludlow Elementary School. The new district remains part of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union.

A higher bar

Ludlow kids campaign for a yes vote on the merger proposal on Nov. 28

Although those opposed to the merger did not prevail, they scored an impressive total. Because it was a re-vote, overturning the merger could not be done with a simple majority. A winning “no” vote required more than two-thirds of the number of “yes”  votes cast in November.

 

In other words, the “no” vote  today had to be larger than today’s “yes” vote, but also that the  “no” total had to be at least 230 votes, which is two-thirds of those 344 “yes” votes from the November balloting. With a total vote of 231, the opposition met the higher bar and lost by a much smaller margin than it did in November.

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