By Jeneve Girard-diCarlo
This is a response to Alex Thomsen's piece last week.
Thank for your perspective and your heart-felt letter. I know that everyone on the board cares deeply about our schools and our taxpayers. I also appreciate the critical importance of keeping tax rates down. I believe the board can lower tax rates, renovate Harwood and make a district design decision before November that would work long term for our current (and projected) stabilizing enrollment. As you know, the state mandates that bus times must be less than two hours each way and that class size must be less than 24 students.
My hope is that we can hold what is best for students: shortest possible bus times, the least disruption possible around consolidation and class sizes between 15 and 18, despite what the state has set as the top limit for what is acceptable. Closing Fayston and moving middle school students could be a minimally disruptive way to pursue the Harwood bond and show the taxpayers a significant savings. Could this be accomplished with district class sizes at or under 18 students? What would be the longest bus route on express routes for Moretown, Waitsfield, Fayston and Warren middle-schoolers attending Crossett Brook? What would this cost?
My concern is that we are not holding the research on what is best for teachers, students and families as equally as important as the budget. I would like the board to be transparent and detailed about what the district design will look like for students, teachers and families and how it will improve outcomes. Just because the state sets the class size limit at 24 does not mean we should be aiming for that.
Both lowering tax rates and keeping class sizes under 18 students are attainable. Class sizes of eight are not ideal. However, according to the research on student and teacher outcomes and class size, class sizes of 22 to 24 are not ideal either (even when adding paraeducators). Can we reach our budget goals and give Harwood a much needed renovation with a district class size goal of under 18 and express bus routes? What would this cost? What could we save? Could we attract more families to our area by promoting our focus on express bus routes, moderate class sizes and tax rates?
Girard-diCarlo lives in Waitsfield.