Arduous, time-consuming and difficult work faces the elected members of the Harwood Unified Union School District Board and the members of its various subcommittees who are working on school district redesign.
There are no easy answers – or certainly no easy answers that aren’t emotionally challenging for the parents, teachers and students in each of the district’s six member towns.
There are two middle schools and five elementary schools in our school district and some member towns find their elementary schools facing enrollment declines so steep that a third-grade class would have two students next year.
Compounding the difficult work of the board is a proposal by the district superintendent to move all middle-schoolers to Crossett Brook as soon as possible so that the Harwood Union Middle School space could be reabsorbed by the high school.
It’s more complicated than that, though. There are board representatives who want to cost out creating a middle school in The Valley by repurposing one of The Valley’s four elementary schools. One board member has created a spreadsheet detailing up to nine possible configurations for school district redesign including one or two middle schools and anywhere from two to five elementary schools in the district.
Another board member wants to assess tax rate impact, staffing and other logistical metrics for any proposed redesign scenario.
The superintendent wants to cost out the single middle school (no construction or alternations) model at Crossett Brook. Board members want to explore a two-middle-school option. This creates the backdrop against which the same board and subcommittees have to determine what type of a bond is needed to bring Harwood Union High School up to code.
It’s hard to know how forward progress will happen in this scenario. Hard numbers are needed and will have to be estimated, but even before that, some consensus on the right way forward has to be attained. For some board members, cost estimates will lead to consensus; others want to work based primarily on enrollment projections. Some are concerned about the pedagogical and social impacts of class sizes and educational outcomes.
If it feels like an impasse, it’s because it is.