I find myself in a quandary about the school bond vote.
I appreciate all that the board has done to put this on the table but, honestly, don’t know how I will vote. While about half of the bond will go toward fixing major problems in the Harwood roof and facility, a second tier, regarding reconfiguring Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS) to be a grade seven and eight for the whole district is most disturbing, even more than the dollar amount, which is quite staggering.
The argument that we have a facility at CBMS so we may as well create a seven/eight middle school leaves me cold. The general feeling among middle school educators and specialists is that fifth- through eighth-grade configurations are preferred. CBMS was designed to house grades five through eight and is working well this way. Having been a middle school counselor in Barre and Rochester, as well as an elementary counselor at the Warren and Fayston schools, I have participated in numerous studies for this district as well as in the other schools. Working with a consultant from UVM, Chris Stevenson, we learned about the developmental needs of students at these grade levels. A move during grade seven, a vulnerable time for preteens, especially males, is not considered ideal.
At one point, early in the consolidation discussion, there was talk about having a five through eight middle school in The Valley by reconfiguring grades at the local elementary schools. Recently, I have heard more about closing elementary schools than considering grade reconfiguration.
Consolidation of the schools resulted in increased administrative costs and did not represent a dramatic savings district-wide. Now we are talking about moving central administration to Harwood, reconfiguring classrooms, adding a gym, refreshing the track and building new classrooms at CBMS. I heard at the Q&A on Thursday night, October 14, that with school choice options some students left Harwood or did not transition to Harwood to attend CBMS.
Might they have stayed closer to home, if given an option? I am still on the fence about supporting the bond. As a parent I remember my daughters’ hesitation about riding a long bus ride with high school students. It was quite a switch from the family environment fostered at Warren and in the other four elementary schools in The Valley.
I have taken the time to research the upcoming nearly $60 million bond vote by following the links in The Valley Reporter and on FPF. I attended an informative Q&A session on Zoom last week. There are still two more opportunities for folks to go to a session either online or in person. The links are all on the HUUSD website. I encourage all to check out all the information before voting. While I hate not to support the schools, I feel that this bond vote may not adequately address the needs of all students in the district.
Rood lives in Waitsfield.