Regional technical academy proposal rejected

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(Host) Planners of a new technical academy proposed for Northwestern Vermont say they’ll decide next week whether to come up with a different plan or call it quits. Their proposal was defeated by voters in about two dozen communities Tuesday.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) At the last town meeting in March, voters in the northwestern Vermont communities approved the creation of a Regional Technical Academy school district by a roughly two to one margin. On Tuesday, though, voters decided that the proposal to build a new technical center to replace two existing ones in Burlington and Essex was flawed.

Jim Hester chairs the board of the Regional Technical Academy. The board is authorized to operate for ten more months and it’s possible it could submit a new proposal for a technical academy. But Hester lawmakers would probably have to get involved in any new plan.

(Hester) “It would probably not make sense to come forth with another proposal, unless we had a change in some of the legislative constraints, particularly the ability for a technical center to grant a high school diploma. Possibly the constraint which would let us be a four-year program instead of a two-year program.”

(Zind) Hester says persuading the Legislature to permit a four-year degree program would address two of the major concerns of opponents of the rejected plan. But Hester says the board may not have the resources to continue now that it’s exhausted most of its grant money.

(Hester) “The board is really a board without a school and without students. So we have no independent source of resources or revenue.”

(Zind) Hester says the panel will meet next week to decide how to proceed. Of the more than 78,000 ballots cast Tuesday, about 55 percent were against the tech academy proposal.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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