ENOSBURG FALLS — The Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union (FNESU) board is considering taking another bite at the Act 46 apple.

On Tuesday, FNESU’s new superintendent Lynn Cota outlined merger options for the board.

Under the law, the Vermont Board of Education may order mergers of school districts have not voluntarily merged into larger districts by Jan. 31, 2018.

“We do not want to be in a position where we have no voice,” said Cota.

Her comment was echoed by FNESU board chair Tennyson Doane, who said, “If we want a voice, now is the time to make these hard decisions.”

“The state is saying ‘we believe it is going to save money if we put things together and therefore that is what we’re going to do,’” observed Berkshire school board chair Paul Hatch.

Last June, voters in all five towns – Bakersfield, Berkshire, Ensoburgh, Montgomery and Richford – rejected a proposed merger into a single district.

That option wasn’t on the table Tuesday. Instead, board members considered a variety of options, all of which would keep the elementary schools in a district separate from the high schools, preserving high school choice.

The option with the most support amongst both board members and community members in attendance was creating a K-8 district for the three elementary schools – Bakersfield, Berkshire and Montgomery – and combining the two high school districts of Richford and Enosburg into a single district. The five communities would continue to operate under the umbrella of FNESU, but with two school districts instead of five. This arrangement is known as a side-by-side.

Cota will also reach out to Sheldon Elementary School to see if someone from the school would be interested in meeting with FNESU to discuss joining the PreK-8 district.

Lastly, Cota will look into what the five school districts would need to do to convince the state board that they are capable of meeting the efficiency and educational goals of Act 46 without merging.

For further coverage of Tuesday night’s meeting, pick up a Thursday copy of the St. Albans Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.