By Jay Bellows and Tommy Young

We are writing to discuss the need for a single bond vote that includes all the items that have been researched and proposed to the community. We are the most intimately knowledgeable about the gym use after hours throughout the entire district. One of the major services we provide is developing the schedule for not only basketball from first through12th grades, both boys’ and girls’ but also all the activities from every other group in our community that uses our gym assets. This includes fall, winter and spring schedules for children’s activities and the foundation for open slots for adult events as well. With this knowledge we can clearly state that we are in drastic need of gym infrastructure in our district.



Allow us to take you through a year’s time of gym use in our district. First, let’s start with the basic assumption that we have three gyms. The truth here is that Brookside’s gym is not sufficient or safe for use for older students to use for athletics. It’s not safe for third and fourth graders either based on the small footprint, outdated facilities and unsafe environment.

With that being said, let’s focus on the two full-size gyms we have in our entire district, Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) and Harwood Union High School (HUHS).The fall is a very busy time for both gyms, which includes school volleyball, preseason basketball, as well the robust variety of adult events that include soccer, multiple leagues of volleyball, rock climbing, etc. This is actually when the gyms are demanded the least, and it’s still nearly at capacity. When the fall sports come to a close, winter preseason starts and the demands for the gym are exponential.

At CBMS we need to establish practice and game times for three fifth- and sixth-grade girls’ basketball teams, up to four fifth-grade and sixth-grade boys’ basketball teams, three seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ basketball teams, and up to four-plus boys’ seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams. There is also a contracted rock-climbing day each week that no one else can be in the gym during their time. On top of all of that, there are adult soccer leagues, multiple volleyball leagues, adult basketball, etc. This is just during the week.


Saturdays and Sundays are filled with game slots and other sport use by HUUSD students. What does this mean? It means that there is no time for our kids to use the gym. We are lucky if teams get two practices a week, and that’s sharing the gym with multiple teams. In a time where we are working very hard to get our youth more active, this is clearly limiting our ability to accomplish that feat. And then there are school dances, games, events, etc. that will restrict even the little bit of time that is allotted to each team. Winter at HU is no better. We are trying to fit four basketball teams into one gym each day. That’s JV girls, varsity girls, JV boys and varsity boys’ basketball, every day.

With school now ending later in the day, four 90-minute practices, which is a half hour less than most other schools, will have kids ending practice at 10 p.m. and then driving home. When there are games, wrestling matches or events kids will either have practices cut to bare minimum or canceled all-together. This is just another example of kids losing out, once again, because of lack of facilities.

As we move on to spring, believe it or not, it gets even more congested. At CBMS, we have club basketball for boys and girls with multiple teams for grades from five through 12, baseball for first through eighth, softball for first through eighth, lacrosse from first through eighth, spring soccer for both girls and boys, Girls on the Run, rock climbing and then filter in all the adult leagues that were mentioned prior. Based on the fact that we live in Vermont, these sports can’t start until much later based on the fact that the fields just aren’t ready to be played on. Moving to HU, there is softball, JV and varsity baseball, boys’ and girls’ JV and varsity lacrosse and track take up the entire schedule for the gym leaving no room for any other group to use it. And these groups, just like basketball in the winter, will not be getting out of late practice until 10 p.m. due to the late dismissal times as well. All of this is, to be honest, plenty of reason to justify a second gym at HU.


So what will a second gym provide?

  • No more late practices
  • No more limited practices
  • No more shared gym space
  • More facilities for taxpayers in the community to access for adult recreation
  • Ability to expand on physical education, as outlined in their thorough report on why the expanded gym space is direly needed.
  • An investment into our youth’s ability to participate in physical activities on a consistent basis.
  • A second gym would create additional revenue sources through gym rentals.
  • Additional space for unplanned need, for instruction and learning such as how the gym was used during the pandemic for both classroom space and lunch space.

With all of the information above, we are asking that you hold the course with presenting a single bond vote that includes the needed classroom upgrades, track upgrades and specifically the gym upgrades. While the gym represents roughly 10% of the bond cost, we could easily argue that it’s need is several times that amount.

Bellows is the varsity boys’ basketball coach at HU and a resident of Waterbury. Young is a teacher in the local district, the varsity girls’ basketball coach and a resident of Duxbury.