FRANKLIN – The recommendation of the Secretary of Education that Franklin merge its school district with Swanton and Highgate was met with vitriol from Franklin and Highgate residents during a meeting at the Franklin Elementary School Wednesday night.

Last month, the Vermont Secretary of Education’s Office released a statewide consolidation plan required by Act 46. Those recommendations included the merger of the member districts of the Missisquoi Valley Union High School (MVU) – Swanton, Highgate and Franklin into a single governing district.

Franklin residents, who have opposed a merger, were irate as they took to the microphone last night to air their disapproval.

“Basically what they’re looking to do… is contrary what we presented as a proposal and contrary to what we held for a vote in November,” said Robert Berger of the Franklin School Board, before leading into a reading of Act 46’s recommendations for Franklin Central School.

“The secretary believes that the best means of meeting the Act 46 goals – for each district individually and for the region – is for the State Board of Education to merge the governance structures of the Missisquoi Valley Union High School District, the Franklin School District, the Highgate School District and the Swanton School District into a single unified union school district that provides for the education of its PreK-12 students by operating multiple schools,” Berger read.

Audience members followed along on a printout of the recommendation offered to them by members of the Franklin School Board as the audience filed into the elementary school’s gym.

“If you read through the state’s proposal, where they admit that even if taxes are going to go up for one or two groups of tax payers, that they can’t consider that as the sole reason for precluding merger,” Berger told the audience. “Basically, in my mind, that’s an admission that they can’t meet Act 46’s goals.”

Franklin’s opposition to a school merger was largely fueled by a fear that, with a merged district built on proportional representation, Franklin would have too small of a voice to defend against a possible school closure. That sentiment was expressed clearly Wednesday night, as Berger’s address to the crowd took on a fatalist tone.

“Our back is up against the wall right now,” he said. “I don’t want to give you guys any magic hope.

“We’re fighting for the life of our school.”

For full coverage of the meeting, pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.