‘Let’s put the brakes on’
I am a concerned parent, property owner and taxpayer in Moretown. I was able to attend the most recent Harwood Unified Union School District Board meeting on February 14, 2018. I am writing with some questions and concerns related to the district redesign proposals that were floated at the board meeting. Two of the proposals offered listed Moretown and Fayston to close and one proposal listed Fayston and Waitsfield to close. I know that there is more research to do regarding exactly how many students are appropriated to the remaining schools. I understand that there is some degree of uncertainty to how many students will be relocated, but what I noticed is that in all three scenarios, one or more schools do not have the capacity to host all those students.
There was also Moretown Education Center for All (MECA) with a question mark. What I think that means is that the MECA program may be scaled back or eliminated. What a loss that would be! Furthermore, what would happen as our child population grows? If we are close to capacity in these proposals, won’t we outgrow our building capacities, forcing us to build out? Why are we limiting our proposals to two school closures? Why not one ... or none? Then we will spend millions to build out? This does not make sense to me. We are going to spend millions less on employing teachers and staff and just spend those millions and more on architects and contractors? This seems irresponsible and reckless. Build less, use the space you have.
Not much was discussed at the meeting about building out, except for a vote to hire an architect firm. I am quite glad that some board members had the courage to speak up and put the brakes on spending $28,000 to have plans drawn up for proposals that were stated to be the “start” of proposals. Why would we spend money before we know better what buildings would be modified? Cart before the horse and an expensive one.
Lastly, as brought up by multiple board members at the meeting, why are we closing schools, displacing families and students and staff, only to spend money on building out at other locations? It was suggested that of a $37 million budget, we would save about $1 million a year on personnel (and axe over a dozen faculty) give or take $100,000, and perhaps another $1 million a year in other costs. While I respect the response from Superintendent Brigid Nease that those are conservative numbers and we would likely save more every year, when you factor in the $20 million to $30 million more in costs up front (go ahead and add interest to that ... and contractors always charge more, not less) that we would have to pay over 30 years, I very much doubt we will be paying less than if we just stayed the course as we are now. This requires more thought, analysis and discussion, not to mention community engagement. Let’s put the brakes on, because let’s face it, you will never get a vote to pass without the community rallying behind you, and you won’t get the community to rally unless they are involved and behind the plan.
I very much appreciate the effort that has been put into this process thus far. I would ask that we explore every possible option and perhaps, just maybe, we can accomplish a redesign without closing any schools.
Mitchell lives in Moretown.