The Fayston Select Board, in a September 26 letter to the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board, spelled out concerns over school district redesign options that call for closing Fayston Elementary School.
The select board met on September 26 to follow up on a September 24 select board meeting where members of Friends of Fayston asked the board to endorse and send a letter that the group had written. The board opted not to send the Friends of Fayston letter until it had met and discussed it.
The letter that the board sent clarifies the board’s thinking on the potential closure of Fayston Elementary School.
“While we support the efforts to maximize operational efficiencies and provide the highest quality educational experience, we also believe that the HUUSD Board must consider the social and financial impacts to the community of such a closing,” the board wrote.
“The potential decrease in property values, possibly leading to a higher municipal tax rate, the potential decrease in our ability to attract new young families to town, and the possible out-migration of young families to other towns that have their own school, are downstream results that studies have shown happened after rural school closings around the country and deserve further analysis here,” the letter points out.
Given Fayston’s lack of town center, post office or business district, the board said that the school is a central focal point for the town.
The select board asks the HUUSD Board to clarify the educational benefits for the town’s preK to sixth-graders that closing the school would bring and asks about guarantees the board could give Fayston families regarding district choice.
Further, the board’s letter asked for the education property tax impacts of the district redesign scenarios that the board is considering and also asks about economic benefits (in terms of property tax savings) that might accrue to Fayston taxpayers if the school were closed.
“What, if any, contingencies has the HUUSD made for maintenance of any closed facility while the transfer of ownership is taking place? If Fayston School were closed, the town of Fayston has a vested interest in taking ownership of the building and its other real estate. The town asks for clear assurances that it will have the right of first refusal of the building and its other real estate,” the board wrote.
The board also raised the question of repurposing the Fayston school building for innovative programming such as Burr and Burton’s Mountain School program.