The Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board is close to letting the middle school merger slip through its fingers for another year. Although the board voted to move forward with a middle school merger in December of 2020, it will revote on whether or not to pursue a merger on May 26, 2021.
At the school board’s last meeting on May 12, a new idea percolated regarding the merger that is meant to bring Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) seventh- and eighth-graders over to Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) starting fall of 2022. Now, many board members are thinking that the school board shouldn’t approve the merger until it passes a bond, which could help fund the merger by paying for additions to CBMS to accommodate the influx of new students from HUMS. Without the bond, students may have to make due with temporary classrooms. However, the exact facilities logistics needed for merger will remain unclear until more planning is done.
“I’m really narrowing in on this idea that I want the merger to be contingent on the bond passing,” said Lisa Mason, Moretown. “I’m not interested in moving the kids and crossing the bridge before the plan has really been approved, stamped and funded.”
To Mason’s comment, board chair Torrey Smith pointed out that the school board would never go through with a merger if it wasn’t able to fund it, even if the board had previously voted “yes” on pursuing the merger. “When we made this motion to merge the middle schools in December, all along it was assuming that we would be able to get the plans to work. If we go to merge it, and it turns out we can’t get the plans to work, then we can’t really merge it,” said Smith.
Smith also highlighted a chicken vs egg problem in pursuing the merger: The community won’t support the merger until it knows the logistics, but the board can’t start planning logistics without community support. “The community won’t have a chance to get behind it if we don’t keep moving it forward,” said Smith. “If we vote no, then we just keep starting over again.”
Despite Smith’s comments, board members were adamant that a bond must pass prior to merger approval. “We’d be foolish to go forward with this without having funding,” said Jonathan Young, Warren. “I totally think we’d be crazy to go forward as if this is a slam dunk when I can tell you now, its not going to pass in Warren until we build some consent in this district, instead of jamming something through based on a proportional vote that doesn’t represent most of the district. Let’s get it passed, get that money for it, and then let’s go crazy and build something so good that our community will be happy about it.”
But what about the students? What do the students want? That night, the board heard Harwood senior Carlton Cummiskey share his thoughts on the merger from a student’s perspective. “We wish that we had been combined at Crossett Brook much earlier so that we could have been able to meet our friends much earlier, so that the connections that we have could be even stronger,” said Cummiskey. “In middle school, that’s the time to make the very important connections with the peers that they are surrounded by, and create those life long relationships.”
Cummiskey pointed out that CBMS students and HUMS students already have sports and dances together. “So the question was already brought up: Why don’t we just go to school together?” asked Cummiskey. “People say that we can’t have kids on busses for longer. But the extra 10 minutes on the bus would be far outweighed by the chance to get to get to go to school with our Waterbury friends two years earlier.”