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Career Center May Become New District

If all goes as planned, the Central Vermont Career Center may become its own school district. The center is moving forward with a proposal that, if approved by the Agency of Education, will go before voters of its sending towns by Town Meeting Day in 2022. 

If voters approve, the center will pull out of the Barre Unified Union School District and create its own school board, budget, and district, according to Career Center director Jody Emerson, who presented plans at the Montpelier Roxbury Public School Board’s most recent meeting. 

Enrollment at the Career Center is at an all-time high this year, with 207 students attending programs that range from automotive technology to natural resources. As of last week, 32 of those students are from Montpelier High School, 53 from U-32 High School, and 67 from Spaulding High School, among enrollees from several other schools. High enrollment is one of many factors that led the Career Center to form a governance study committee, which focuses on turning the center into a new school district run by a board composed of residents from sending high schools, plus four appointees. 

Formerly known as the Barre Tech Center, the Career Center is co-located with Spaulding High School. Six high schools, comprising 18 towns, send students to the center, which is part of the Barre School District. Although students from throughout the region attend the Career Center, only the Barre School District can vote on its plans and budget under its current governance structure. 

“We have one more governance meeting, when we hope to finalize our lease agreement, review feedback on our articles of agreement from our lawyer, and prepare a report to send to the Agency of Education,” Emerson said. If the state Agency of Education approves the new governance model, the next step is a vote from all 18 towns that send students to the center. 

“By mid-December we should know if we are moving forward or not,” Emerson told the school board.

“I’ve been to the tech center,” Montpelier Roxbury School Board Superintendent Libby Bonesteel said, “They are doing marvelous things with kids. And the kids [from Montpelier] who go there have nothing but positive things to say. And [the center] needs upgrades. If we don’t shift in governance, Barre has that say.”

“People will really have a voice across all sending schools,” Emerson added. “They’ll have a voice in that budget. That’s missing now. It really is.”

“It’s clear there is a huge demand for this kind of school,” said Jill Remick, the Montpelier Roxbury School Board member who serves on the CVCC Governance Committee. “There were a hundred kids who wanted to participate but weren’t able to. I like the idea of our boards having more ownership over the decision making.”