NORTH BENNINGTON – The Vermont Board of Education voted on Tuesday to approve the Village School of North Bennington, which clears the way to set up an independent school at the site of the North Bennington Graded School for the 2013-14 school year.
Stephan Morse, chairman of the state board, said the application to create the school passed by a vote of 5-2 after a discussion that lasted about an hour and a half.
Morse said there were local residents speaking for and against the application at the meeting which took place in Montpelier.
Residents of North Bennington have voted three times in the last 11 months to give the local school board, known as the North Bennington Prudential Committee, permission to close the public school and open an independent school in the same building.
The proposal was put forward by the Independent School Investigatory Study, or ISIS, committee and supported by the local school board.
Those who supported the independent school said it would protect the school from state interference which they feared might someday include a forced merger or closure. Neither would be allowed without local support under current state law.
By closing the public school, North Bennington would also become a municipality which offers school choice. Parents could send their elementary school students to the Village School or another approved school and the tuition approved by local voters would go with the student. In municipalities without school choice, parents can also choose to send a child to a different school but the parents are responsible for the tuition themselves.
The third vote on closing the school was earlier this month. Tuesday was also the third time the application had come before the state school board.
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