I am responding to the significance of the imminent decisions which concern the future of the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD). First, I wish to thank the school board and many community members for their heartfelt work toward a positive solution. And, second, I must express my sincere concern for potential school closures and consolidations.
Working in the service of our children through public school education is noble work and there is nothing more important for the future of our society (culture, planet, etc.) than raising healthy children. It needs to be all about the kids we are responsible for, and accountable to, each and all of them. As has been said many times, we have borrowed this world from them. We have already done quite a number on it and we must be as supportive as possible.
My understanding of the various options proposed for merging middle schools, closing elementary schools and so on is that there are many numbers and much focus on numbers. And, the numbers lack validity, as in solid evidence and reference points to where we are now and especially for where we may be in a few more years. There are many variables, for example, which affect property taxes and how much is paid and by whom. Could a potential nominal reduction in taxes (i.e., less than $100) seriously be worth (even considering) losing dozens of middle-class jobs (teachers and their families?), forcing our children to spend even more time on a bus – maybe even needing to drive past the elementary school where their siblings, even a parent went, but that is now closed to house administrative offices? Would that be worth any potential savings? Everything costs more than it used to. And we haven't considered nearly all of the possibilities for HUUSD moving forward. We cannot put a price tag on a childhood in one of these towns.
We must not be driven first by money we can (maybe) save, but find instead a more necessary motivation. Let's focus on what we can give to our children. Vermonters have for generations taken their deep, grounded intelligence out into the world, blazed new paths and lived notable lives, and have often returned home because there's no place like Vermont. I have spoken with many local residents who know firsthand the importance of growing up and attending a K through 6 elementary school in their hometowns. This is where and when we learn to take care of our home and to respect our neighbors. My wife was raised here in Washington County and as a middle-school-age boy visiting the Mad River Valley, I wished I were growing up here. When we became parents, we returned to give our daughter the education we thought best.
Each of the six towns in this district is distinctly different and each has essential contributions to our unified district. Harwood is the perfect hub for seventh- and eighth-grade middle school. It has the space and is reasonably central. It is designed to house middle and high school students; we can evolve with that space. Let's use what we have. We have 22 children in the Moretown kindergarten. There could be two kindergartens, not none!
May we honor and preserve what we have here: a very unique and healthy way of life. School closures would be absolutely devastating to the quality of life here. Please take the time to consider why it is so important to keep all of our schools open and towns alive.
Richard Savory lives in Moretown, Vermont.