There will be no third-grade class at Fayston Elementary School next year.
After discussion and public comment last week, the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board members voted to stop offering third grade at Fayston Elementary School for the coming year.
As declining enrollment ripples through the district, paired with intradistrict choice that allows families to move their children between district schools, the HUUSD administrative team can no longer support a third grade at Fayston.
On April 10, the HUUSD Board voted to remove third grade from the classes offered at Fayston Elementary School for the 2019-20 school year due to a projected enrollment of one to two students next year. When it came time for public comment on the discussion, Matt Lillard, Fayston, encouraged the board to make the decision that night so families immediately affected would know what to expect.
The projected classroom size by grade for 2019-20 for Fayston shows a total of 65 students: seven in kindergarten, 11 in first, 11 in second, 15 in fourth, 10 in fifth and nine in sixth grade. Third- and fourth-grade students are combined in classrooms for some classes, but for core classes such as math they are divided.
Prior to last week’s meeting, district Superintendent Brigid Nease told the parents and board members that her administrative team feels that such a small third grade was not viable educationally. She said that the decision had nothing to do with the budget or staffing levels but rather with the learning opportunities for children.
The decision to eliminate third grade at Fayston Elementary School came as the board continued but then stopped its subcommittee work on school district redesign options.
SUBCOMMITTEE WORK TABLED
Despite having worked on nine district reconfiguration options, the Harwood Unified Union School District Board reversed course at last week’s meeting and paused asset management work, further delaying action on district redesign.
The HUUSD Board decided to put the asset management and executive facilities committee work on hold so the board can address 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 an April 3 meeting, 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.
Metrics discussed 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 discuss district redesign. 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, 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.”