By Katie Martin
Despite having worked on nine district reconfiguration options, the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board reversed course at its April 10 meeting and decided to pause asset management work, further delaying action on district redesign.
At its April 10 meeting, the HUUSD Board decided to put the asset management and executive facilities committee work on hold as the board will do pre-K through grade 12 planning and bond preparation as a full board.
Board chair Caitlin Hollister said via email that the board may task subcommittees with minimal work, but going forward a collective approach will allow the board to work more efficiently and productively.
“We recognized that our board often works best when our most complicated tasks are addressed with the entire board. For example, our merged board has always approached budget work at the full board level, not with committees. That way we all receive the same information at the same time and each board member has equal access to see the reports, ask questions of our district leaders and work together to determine next steps. This also allows members of the public better access – our full board meetings being at predictable times and locations with dedicated time for public comment,” said Hollister.
At its last meeting on April 3, the asset management committee (AMC), a subcommittee of the HUUSD Board, viewed nine different school configuration models to be cost out based on a set of metrics. Those nine configuration options include one to two middle schools and three to five elementary schools.
Option 1 has no change from the current configuration of two middle schools and five elementary schools. Option 2 has one middle school and five primary schools. Option 3a has two middle schools and four primary schools, turning Waitsfield Elementary into a Valley middle school with grades six to eight. Option 3b has two middle schools and four primary schools with Waitsfield becoming a Valley middle school for grades five to eight. Option 4 shows two middle schools and three primary schools, eliminating Waitsfield and Fayston elementary schools with Waitsfield becoming a middle school. Option 5 shows one middle school at CBMS and four primary schools excluding Fayston elementary.
Option 6a has one middle school at CBMS and three primary schools, excluding Moretown and Fayston elementary schools. Option 6b has one middle school at CBMS and excludes Waitsfield and Fayston primary schools. Option 7 has one middle school at CBMS with sixth through eighth grades, with Waitsfield and Thatcher Brook Primary School being the only elementary schools and Fayston, Moretown and Warren elementary schools closed. Option 8 has one middle school at CBMS and does not specify an elementary school configuration. Option 9 focuses on pre-K and after-school care dedicated at the Moretown building. Next the committee decided they hope to present at an April meeting to the entire board and get to a point where they could involve the architects again.
Metrics to be considered included construction/renovation costs, operational cost impact, impact to staffing, travel impact, community perspective, administration perspective, tax rate impact, enrollment per building and debt service impact. The next step procedurally was to review options and come up with questions for each option before going back to the administrative team, which can list why options work or don’t.
According to Hollister, the board does not have plans for those configurations to be presented to the full board yet. On May 15, board members expect to hear from Michelle Baker, district director of finance and operations, about what level service projections would look like, meaning what the expenses and tax rate would be in the next five to 10 years if the district stays with the same configuration of buildings and programming.
The AMC and Executive Facilities Committee (EFC) have each met separately in the last two weeks to go over a district outline. The EFC met on Wednesday, March 27, at Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) to tour the facility and classrooms.
Committee members discussed how they would like to proceed with the middle school options. After touring the CBMS facility and classrooms, Waterbury representative James Grace mentioned that he had devised a working spreadsheet with nine school configurations for the district.
At that meeting, community input included costing out turning a current Valley elementary school into a dedicated Valley middle school. Daigle said that it would be impossible to turn an elementary school in The Valley into a dedicated middle school for multiple reasons.
AMC committee chair Christine Sullivan replied via email on the next steps for the committees: “At our April 10 asset management committee meeting, the consensus was that the full board should spend additional time in upcoming agendas on the work that our group had started. Essentially, this is long-term budgeting so really the work of the full board. The next steps have been laid out in the draft timeline the board reviewed on April 10 and will be considering for adoption on April 24. We did report out with a challenges/opportunities document, which was a more detailed list compiled from the worksheets the board completed on March 27.”