At the November 13 meeting, the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board passed the following motion: “To continue exploration and development of a preK-12 plan, in accordance with the Articles of Agreement, that includes closing Fayston Elementary School, combining all seventh- and eighth-graders at Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS), and moving Moretown's fifth- and sixth-graders to CBMS.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
By stating our intentions, we are continuing our efforts to be transparent about the board’s long-term thinking for our school district.
You’ll notice there are no dates attached to the plan, but we do have some sense of the order and timing. At our November 20 meeting, we considered the seventh- and eighth-grade question and decided not to move the seventh- and eighth-graders together in the fall of 2020. We did, however, affirm our board’s support for a plan that ultimately combines seventh- and eighth-grade students into a single middle school environment at CBMS.
In considering the closure of Fayston Elementary School (FES), we know that the school will not close prior to the fall of 2021. There is still work for us to do in determining how students from Fayston would choose or be assigned to other schools, what the building could be used for and how to support a smooth transition for students and families. Should the board then decide to proceed with closure, we would hold a series of hearings after which the board could vote, by a two-thirds majority, to approve a closure. We do not anticipate pursuing this final decision prior to the FY2022 budget season (the fall of 2020).
As for the Moretown fifth- and sixth-graders, the board will also be discussing the pros and cons of this move in upcoming meetings. We know there is a need for more classroom space in Moretown Elementary (MES) to accommodate preK and kindergarten students. Opening up the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms would allow MES to serve more young students while offering older Moretown students the opportunity to join a larger cohort of their peers at CBMS or to choose to go into a smaller fifth- and sixth-grade class in one of our preK-6 schools.
As we move into our budget season, the financial impacts of these possible changes will start to become even clearer. Having now identified the direction we believe our district should move, we will also resume work on our bond proposal so that we further define the capital improvements needed to implement our plans and upgrade our facilities throughout the district. We want to be clear that the bond is not contingent on any plans that have not yet been confirmed. We will be able to share an overview of what our schools need, what a bond can offer us and what decisions are still ahead. Some decisions, such as what construction is needed to accommodate all seventh- and eighth-graders at CBMS, will be decided before the bond vote. Others, such as whether Fayston Elementary School will close, will not be decided before a 2020 bond vote.
We made a commitment last spring to ask our voters to support a bond only once we had a clearer long-term plan in place for all of our campuses. While this plan is still evolving, our November 13 vote was an important step in sharing our current expectations for what is ahead for our Harwood unified schools. In the coming weeks, we will decide on a bond date and work toward defining the scope of that bond.
This has been and will continue to be challenging and emotional work. These changes have been difficult to imagine and while we are all affected by the plans ahead, we know that the proposed changes will be more dramatic for some of our staff and families than others. I encourage you to watch our meetings and to reach out to board members to learn more about how each of us is approaching this work. You’ll find more information at https://huusd.org/prek-12-bond-plan.
Thank you for your continued support for our students and our schools.
Caitlin Hollister is the chair of the Harwood Unified Union School Board.