Four months ago, on April 9, the Moretown Select Board created a rough timeline for the town to host a vote on withdrawing Moretown Elementary School (MES) from the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD). “We can have a vote in November,” said select board chair Tom Martin at the meeting in April. “We have a town election in November this year and that would be an opportunity to get the whole town together to vote on something.”

However, the conversation that transpired at Moretown’s most recent select board meeting on August 3 indicated that a school district withdrawal vote may happen later than the board initially planned.

Public engagement was the board’s first concern with continuing the school district withdrawal process. “I haven’t heard from a lot of people in the last month,” said Martin. “I don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy if there’s not a lot of people behind this movement.”


To this, Neil Nussbaum, the Moretown resident who has been spearheading the MES district withdrawal movement, argued that a preliminary informational meeting would give Moretown residents the opportunity to come out of the woodwork and express their views.

 “Before the vote, there would be an informational meeting. Based on everything I found, the best thing would be to withdraw from the district. But I imagine there would be people there that would feel the opposite, and they would have the opportunity to speak there as well before we vote,” said Nussbaum. 

Nussbaum explained that if the board pursued the withdrawal process now, and if all necessary steps were taken to ratify it, then the Moretown School district could be reconstituted as its own independent district by July 1, 2021.  “We would create a Moretown School board,” said Nussbaum. “We would be a preK-six district, which means we would need to tuition kids out for grades seven through 12,” he added.

However, despite Nussbaum’s enthusiasm, as well as his nuanced understanding of the withdrawal process, the board continued to express doubt over the timing of the plan.

“Would this save the town money?” asked select board member John Hoogenboom. “I think it’s a little premature to start votes when we don’t even know what it would cost the town. If it ends up costing the town more money, that might not be such a great idea.”


While Hoogenboom focused on the cost of withdrawal, select board member Rae Washburn focused on the unknown consequences of the pandemic. “There’s so much uncertainty around this with COVID-19,” said Washburn. “Everyone is focusing on just trying to get the kids back to school. That is the priority.”

While Washburn agreed with the idea of withdrawing MES from the school district, he also expressed his view that this wasn’t the right time for it. “I don’t think the timing works right now. there’s just too much uncertainty to make a clear decision when we don’t even know what our schools are going to look like this fall. I don’t think we can do much until we solve those basic issues,” he said.


Thus, the idea to postpone the withdrawal process came to fruition. “Right now, they’re doing everything they can to get kids back in school. This is just a distraction I don’t think anyone needs,” said Martin.

In a last attempt to urge the board to action, Nussbaum reminded the board of the school administration’s long-term consolidation plans, which would eventually lead to the closing of Moretown School, he argued.  “The ultimate plan as I understand it is going to be to close the Fayston School, close the Moretown School, have Waitsfield Elementary be a preK-four school, and have a five to eight middle school at Crossett, and have all the high schoolers at Harwood,” said Nussbaum, who explained he got this information from “the white paper that the superintendent released in 2017.”

It’s true that the school board will start making consolidation decisions this fall when it votes on whether or not to merge seventh- and eighth-grade students from Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) at Crossett Brook Middle School (CBMS). However, according to the school board’s most recent consolidation discussions, it won’t vote to merge fifth- and sixth-grade students from MES to CMBS this year; news that may come as a relief to many Moretown parents who abhor the idea of moving their children out of Moretown.

Still, Nussbaum warned that the middle school merger vote is just the first in a long list of consolidation decisions that will negatively impact the integrity of the MES. “The plan at this point is to go after the Harwood Middle School because that’s the low hanging fruit,” said Nussbaum.

Ultimately, the Moretown Select Board decided it would wait to hear the outcome of the school board’s October 14 HUMS/CBMS merger vote before making a decision to pursue Moretown’s withdrawal from the district. Moreover, the board suggested that postponing action towards withdrawal would allow select board members to better understand the pandemic’s impacts on the school system.

“We might find with COVID-19 that they have to social distance anyway and there’s no way they could move all kids into CBMS. There’s no way they could social distance,” said Hoogenboom. In summary, Martin said, “At this point, until we see how COVID is going to go, we’re treading water here for a while.”