Voters in North Bennington went to the polls for a third time Thursday. By a 28 vote margin they authorized their school board to close their public grade school.
Supporters of the change hope to start a new, state-approved independent school in the former public school building.
Plans are in the works for the new, independent North Bennington Village School. But the State Board of Education has not taken action on the new school’s application.
Ray Mullineaux the North Bennington School Board chair, says that’s a problem, "because we have no intention of ever closing the school without there being some sort of alternative for the community."
Mullineaux says many in town fear that pressures from the state, and the economics of low student enrollment, could force the school to close or lower its standards.
He says no one wants that.
"I believe that everyone in this debate cared about the school, cared about its importance to this community and cared about education for its kids. We only had a dispute about whether we should stick with a public school model or whether we should switch to a different way of attaining this end," Mullineaux said.
Residents first approved the switch at town meeting last March. The delay in getting state approval forced the district to vote again this fall, setting a 2013 date for closing its public school.
Thursday’s vote was triggered by a petition for a revote, circulated by opponents of "going independent."