After community members asked board members for additional meetings before the board votes on redesign options, the Harwood Unified Union School District school board will add a regular meeting on November 5.
At the last school board meeting held on October 23, school board members voted to add an additional meeting with public comment for district residents before the board votes on which district configuration to move forward. Unless the board opts for the status quo, that vote will result in the closure of Fayston Elementary School.
In a lengthy decision-making process, the board has narrowed 27 district confirmation models to two models. Currently, the options on the table include keeping the status quo, where the district would operate the same seven buildings it currently does now. Option two includes three variations of scenarios to close Fayston School and move all seventh- and eighth-graders to Crossett Brook Middle School, one of which would also move Moretown fifth- and sixth-graders to Crossett Brook.
At the last meeting, school board members looked at another proposed configuration which would place all seventh- through 12th-graders at Harwood Union and change the grade configurations at Thatcher Brook and Crossett Brook. After discussing the option, the majority on the board felt that the scenario was not worth pursuing further and voted against modeling it in detail. Board members’ reasoning behind this was that school educators had told board members that splitting up middle school grades was not recommended and having a dedicated middle school, grades five through eight was ideal.
Before the meeting started the board welcomed a public comment segment where residents of the district spoke to the timeline of board decision making, and the possibility of closing schools.
Moretown resident Jeff Polubinski talked about his experience watching other school boards work with school mergers and working more with the community.
"The school board (South Burlington) felt like they needed clear and convincing evidence to move forward. The second, in this situation, the school board didn't feel that they had that clear and convincing evidence. The last point, as elected officials, board members feel the admirable obligation to make things better, unfortunately I think making things better too often becomes equated to doing something and what I saw with South Burlington was that the board members there resisted the temptation of acting just for the sake of acting or doing something for the sake of doing something. Instead they went back to the drawing table to some extent, it was a little bit more of a painful process, reengaged the community and they developed some moral alternatives and ultimately found a path forward that not only had district and board support, but it had much more community support ... I would just ask you if you have the clear and convincing evidence you think you need to move forward, based on what I've seen I have trouble believing that evidence exists, and in my opinion I think making any big decision now based on what’s out there would be reckless and cause irreparable harm to our kids and our communities," said Polubinski.
The school board will meet again on November 5 before the November 13 meeting where the board will decide on a PreK-12 plan. The plan will outline which buildings to operate and which grades/programs will be offered in each building. The board also expects to have another legal opinion on what the 2016 Articles of Agreement require in terms of voting to close schools.