School Choice and Act 46

Peacham SchoolPEACHAM - While schools in the Caledonia area continue to consolidate their school districts under Act 46, there are a few that remain independent. One of these schools is the Peacham K-6 school district, which has been able to maintain its independence by working alongside the unified districts of Barnet, Walden and Waterford.


The Peacham school district is different than most schools that are involved in Act 46, mainly due to the fact that their school system only caters to students up through sixth grade; students of Peacham have enjoyed the ability of choosing which school they would like to attend after they complete sixth grade. However, with the rules of Act 46, the students would have lost over half of their choices for high schools. Mark Clough, head of the Peacham selectboard, said that he and his colleagues did not want to take such a large variety of schooling options away from their students. "We want to retain our independence, and we think it's one thing that really adds to the social fabric of the town."

This is not to say that the Peacham school is going against the state board and Act 46, the reality is quite the contrary. The Peacham school worked with the school districts of Barnet, Walden and Waterford, and created a system in which Peacham will be able to work alongside their unified district, but their school will still be able to provide their students with the same range of school choices.

"We created a program that was passed by the state board," Clough said, "because we only offer education through sixth grade instead of K-8, like most schools in the area, we were able to work a special deal that allows us to work alongside the unified Barnet, Walden, and Waterford districts. However, our students are not limited to only those school districts of choice for middle and high school, which is what they would have had under Act 46. Instead, they will still have the full range of school choice options that they have experienced in the past."

This choice in schooling options is not available to every school district under Act 46, this is because under normal circumstances, schools in unified districts will only be able to choose from schools to attend within that district. However, most elementary schools in the area are K-8 and have high school options within the area. Peacham does not fit this generic model, since they only have the K-6 district. Jenniffer Botzojorns, the newly appointed Superintendent for the Kingdom East Unified School district, says that Act 46 is more of a one-size-fits-all model; and the fact of the matter is that there are schools, like Peacham, that do not fit into this model. "Here at Caledonia North, all of our schools are preK-8, and then we have choice; then you have Caledonia Central with Danville which is K-12, several which are K-8, and Peacham which is K-6. So we have this law that was created, (Act 46) but the puzzle pieces just don't fit."

The state board accepted the plan sent to them by the Peacham school district, allowing for their school choice, which came as a big relief to Mark Clough and the rest of the Peacham school board, who had been working non-stop with the other school districts to come up with plan that would allow for their choice to remain un-altered. "If we lost the school we'd loose a lot of energy and a lot of young families." Clough noted, "So right now the town sees it as a benefit to keep their K-6 and then choice of 7-12."