At a Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board meeting on May 26, the board voted to make the middle school merger contingent on the passing of a bond.
This means that the board will not bring seventh- and eighth-grade students from Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) to Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) until the community votes “yes” on a bond, which will fund much more than the merger alone.
The bond will pay for an addition of four or more classrooms at CMBS, which is needed to house the extra students post-merger, but it will also include repairs, renovations and additions to Harwood Union High School campus.
While the board has been divided on the middle school merger issue in the past, it showed remarkable consensus in its vote to make the merger bond-contingent with a weighted vote of 93.55% of board members approving a bond-contingent merger, and 6.45% of board members voting against it.
What if the bond doesn’t pass? Board chair Torrey Smith discussed the consequences. “If the bond doesn't pass, we would have to have a new set of conversations about the merger. But I don't see this precludes us from paying for it in some different ways,” she said. In other words, even if the bond doesn’t pass, the merger is not completely off the table.
However, many board members still like the idea of tying the merger to the bond vote, for it gives the community a chance to show its support for a merger with a vote. “The thing I like about this motion is the fact that it is attached to a bond that the voters can weigh into,” said board member Lisa Mason, Moretown. “And I like the fact that we could potentially be not talking about temporary structures,” said Mason. “I really liked the idea that we could secure the money before we move students. That seems like the correct order for me.”
Even board members who had previously voted against the merger supported the idea of bond-contingent merger. “I believe this could be my first time voting in favor of this merger,” said Jonathan Clough, Warren. “I had been uncomfortable with a lot of the details as they were previously. Now, having this bond contingency makes me feel a lot more comfortable.”
Having voted on whether or not to make the merger bond-contingent, the next action item for the board that night was to decide how many classrooms to build in an addition to CBMS.
Eventually, in a weighted vote of 81.65% to 13.15%, the board voted to add a classroom addition of four or more classrooms to CBMS as part of the bond proposal to be presented in the fall.
Those who voted against this motion thought that four classroom was not enough. “I'm just going to go on the record of saying that I fully support six classrooms and not four. Four was clearly just described as the bare minimum, and I don't want to do bare minimum,” said Jonathan Young, Warren.
Other board members, like Christine Sullivan, Waitsfield, liked the four-or-more classroom option. “I'm willing to support this motion just because it gives us the opportunity to look at enrollment in the fall,” said Sullivan.