I am in a unique position to tell my story about Fayston School in a way that might be illuminating to members of the public and members of the HUUSD Board. I moved to Waitsfield about two years ago in the middle of the school year and home-schooled my daughter for kindergarten, partially because we didn't want to give her too many transitions at once.
We started looking at local schools some time shortly after getting settled in Waitsfield and we toured many of The Valley schools. We fell in love with Fayston for all of the reasons that you might expect. It is a beautiful building. It sits next to a quiet brook. It has an expansive outdoor play space. The principal was exceptionally kind. The teachers were engaging. It was bright and vibrant and friendly. It still is. I go there three to five times a week to drop off and pick up my daughter and go to many school events. I can say this because I know that it is true.
For example, this week alone the second-graders cleared trail with the Green Mountain Club. The first-graders harvested potatoes from the school garden (which they planted last spring) and worked with our school chef to turn those potatoes into delicious cinnamon rolls. Last week, the fifth-graders traveled to the Boston Museum of Science. The children at Fayston are receiving a rich and vibrant education that might be different than what children in other schools in our district due to its small size, but is not worse.
We chose Fayston after Superintendent Nease released her white paper and I was warned by a couple of other parents that Fayston Elementary School "might close." It was still kind of an easy decision for me though. This school really has something incredibly special happening.
We enrolled my daughter in first grade and her teacher, Mrs. Boyden, was nothing short of exceptional. Her current teacher, Mrs. Koch, is equally exceptional. They both understood my daughter's social and emotional needs, as well as her educational ones. My daughter has learned to read. Really read! Chapter books. On her own. I am so proud. This has been a truly special time for my family and specifically my daughter in her first years of school.
In conversations with other community members with kids, the subject of school often comes up. Every new person with a school-age child would have a similar conversation. "Where does your daughter go to school? How old is she? What grade is she in?" I would usually answer enthusiastically that she goes to Fayston School. Probably rambling too loudly and too long about how amazing the school actually is. The response I got with almost no exception was, "We thought about sending our child to Fayston, but they might close it so we sent him/her to X school instead."
I definitely understood that. I definitely respect that choice to preserve your child's emotional well-being above all else and to minimize transitions. Of course.
That is why I am so surprised to hear the superintendent and members of the school board state publicly that they don't believe that the white paper or the constant open, specific discussion of closing Fayston Elementary School is the cause of low enrollment. It seems self-evident to me that it would be a major contributor to the low enrollment numbers.
I am here to state simply and plainly and publicly that the white paper and the constant drumming for closure of Fayston Elementary School is absolutely a major cause (if not the primary cause) of low enrollment. I know because I talked to literally dozens of parents who said exactly the same thing to me. This is a fact. There is zero doubt in my mind.
This leaves us with a bit of a dilemma. Once we acknowledge that this public drumbeat for closure affected enrollment, we are left with two choices. Either we believe that this was an unintentional side effect of a robust public discussion. Or we believe that this was an intentional crippling of a local school, in order to further justify the vision of an ambitious superintendent and school board. Neither answer is particularly great. Not being aware of the consequence of your public actions doesn't look good. Intentionally crippling local schools in order to push forward your political agenda looks awful.
That is why some people pretend that up is down, black is white and words don't matter. The best school in the district has declining numbers for some reason other than a constant call for closure. I will say that I am not exactly brimming with confidence in this superintendent and certain members of this board to make decisions for this community that will affect the community for decades to come. Are you?