I tend to favor Option D that closes Fayston School and retains Moretown School. I believe that educational opportunities for Fayston students will be enhanced, not diminished, by closure of Fayston Elementary School and I am not alone among Fayston residents.

I have read all of the posted comments on the petition made by Fayston residents looking for possible reasons Fayston’s school should remain open. Two comments made reference to the impact or “potentially devastating effect” of the school closing on Fayston, but failed to hint at what the impact or “devastating effect” might be. Other comments lauded the quality of the school; however, school excellence is hugely dependent on the quality of teachers, the quality and quantity of support and encouragement students receive from their parents and parental participation in school activities. Students will have the opportunity to attend any of the other elementary schools in the district. Fayston teachers will be reassigned based on seniority. The physical building or its location has not been mentioned by Fayston residents as a reason for maintaining the school. Kids are remarkably resilient; more resilient I suspect than some of their parents. Opportunity for excellent education of our Fayston kids will be retained.

As a New England municipality, Fayston is an anomaly.

“Fayston has a unique and diversified topography. Its history seems to have been molded more by rugged terrain than any other single factor. Said to have the highest average elevation of any town in Vermont, the high lateral ridge along the west border of Town is a barrier that directed the business of the north to Moretown and the business of the south to Waitsfield” (Fayston Town Plan).

Fayston has no village center, no church, no fire department, no library, no health center, no food shelf, no dentist, no laundromat and no shopping center. Waitsfield has all of these services. Fayston has a municipal building at one end of town and a school at the other end. So, when one talks about towns one should really talk about “communities” because Fayston, though a legal municipality, is not in the traditional sense a “community.” Our community is either Waitsfield, Moretown or the Mad River Valley (MRV), depending on where you live and how you feel about it.

Isn’t it better for our kids to have class sizes that provide reasonable diversity of interests and abilities plus some healthy competition? And isn’t it more administratively efficient and more productive for the teachers to have more predictable and similarly sized classrooms each year? And, shouldn’t our best teachers be assured a reasonable number of students to teach each year? Closing Fayston School will help.

An FPF post by Leigh Michl on October 3 references quotes from studies about elementary schools.

  • • "For the smallest rural communities, the presence of a school is associated with many social and economic benefits. Housing values are considerably higher and municipal infrastructure is more developed in small villages with schools." And, “on virtually every indicator of social and economic well-being, larger rural communities that have schools ranked higher than communities without schools.”

There are many reasons other than the existence of a school that explains the higher housing costs in Fayston and the MRV. More important, these findings indicate a correlation between the existence of a school and the value of housing and social and economic well-being, while there is no evidence of causality. Does anyone really believe that closing a school for 60 students in a town of over 1,300 residents will have any measurable effect on social and economic benefits of Fayston residents?

  • "We find that housing values, per-capita income and household income significantly and positively vary with our SPI (school proximity index) above and beyond the effects of age-structure, proportion of households with children, proportion of population that is white, self-employment rates."

Although this was presented in support of retaining all schools, it actually supports closure of Fayston School. Many students are bused past Waitsfield School to attend Fayston. Some live closest to Moretown School. A few are for all practical purposes equidistant to another MRV school. Kids in Fayston already play sports and engage in other recreational, cultural and social activities with peers from adjacent towns in The Valley. If all Fayston students were sent to their closest school, Fayston School would be even more unsustainably small.

Here is some research that I found: “Some researchers (e.g., Carpenter, 2006; McCathern, 2004; Stevenson, 2001) have indicated that no evidence is present that suggests a relationship between school size and student achievement in elementary schools. For example, McCathern (2004) discovered that when socioeconomic status was controlled, a relationship was not present between school size and student achievement. Similar to other researchers (e.g., Sirin, 2005), McCathern confirmed a relationship between the socioeconomic status of students and student achievement. Socioeconomic status was reported to be the most significant predictor of student achievement among all of the factors that were analyzed.”

Fayston is a wonderful place to live, but culturally, socially, economically, we are part of the Mad River Valley and there is not a good reason to maintain an elementary school. The statistics cited above don’t appear to have much relevance to the situation in The Valley.

That the school population in any grade changes so radically year to year makes it difficult to assign teachers. Lumpy class sizes make it difficult for our teachers and reduce diversity and competition for students. Closing Fayston School and allowing students choice of an elementary school will benefit everyone.

If no schools existed in the MRV, who in the world would think we would be considering an elementary school on German Flats Road in South Fayston?

Please do what is best for our students and our communities and close Fayston Elementary School. It’s a school that never should have been built in the first place.

Winchell lives in Fayston, Vermont.