Vote NO for Act 46
First of all, we would like to thank the Act 46 Committee for their dedication and effort in designing a proposal to comply with Act 46. We appreciate the challenge in this immense responsibility. We are also aware that this volunteer work has resulted in critical reactions and strong emotions that none were expecting. Our wish is not to add to the criticism, yet we feel compelled to respond to false or misleading statements made in support of the proposal and to point out some of the unique experiences shared by the PreK - 6 students who attend Barnard Academy.
The current proposal is to change Barnard Academy and Reading Elementary into PreK - 4 schools. The 5th and 6th graders would be moved to one of the schools in the “Unification District”; Prosper Valley, Woodstock Elementary or Killington Elementary. The Unification Board will consist of 2 members from Barnard, 2 members from Pomfret, 2 members from Reading, 2 members from Bridgewater, 2 members from Killington, and 6 members from Woodstock. The following is a list of reasons why this plan is not in the interest of our students or community.
· The property tax incentive that has been reported decreases each year and will eventually go away.
· Your tax dollars and all the school property will belong to the new “Unification District”. The Unification Board will be in charge. Note: Five towns each get two people on the committee. Woodstock gets six.
· Having fifth and sixth graders attend a different school will require some Barnard families to have children in two different schools, or send all of their children to a school other than Barnard.
· There is a strong possibility that this would cause our K-4 population to decrease, which could eventually lead to closure of our school.
· The exceptional programs offered in our community will not be available to our students.
· Our school is well equipped and well maintained. Our flooring is modern. The plumbing and wiring are in good shape. The grounds are also fine. We have a tennis court, an awesome and safe playground, and a soccer/baseball field. What is this being traded for?
· The fifth and sixth grade children can walk to the Silver Lake State Park with their microscopes, and examine microorganisms in their own back yard. They also use the brook in the back of the school to study watersheds and ecosystems. What is this being traded for?
· The entire school walks to the Barnard Town Hall for the annual Thanksgiving Luncheon.
· Teachers can walk with their classes to the Barnard General Store, as well as Silver Lake. What is this being traded for?
· Our fifth and sixth graders, supported by the residents of our town, have a partnership with the Hood Museum in Hanover. They are bussed to Hanover six times per year where they study art from various cultures and times, then create a project based on the presentation of the day. This would go away.
· Our fifth and sixth graders become the leaders in our school. They are charged with community service such as collecting trash each day, putting up flags and helping teachers with compost and recycling. Our fifth and sixth graders feel a great sense of pride and loyalty to their town and their school. If they are bussed to another town, their role as community leaders would go away.
· Our entire school, with the fifth and sixth graders as leaders, perform outstanding musical theater productions, led by our performing arts teacher, with cooperation and support of the classroom teachers and staff. Students read/speak lines, sing, dance, and wear authentic costumes and makeup during these productions. This unique experience would go away because none of the other schools in the proposed Unified District offer musical theater.
· Our entire school takes an annual educational field trip each year. Every other year, this is an overnight trip to places such as The Boston Science Museum, Mystic Seaport in CT, and Plimouth Plantation in MA. It is due to the support from our Barnard community that we are able to do this. This too, would end.
· Over 50 years of research supports how smaller class sizes improve student success in life. Moving our 5th and 6th graders to another school would require a huge shift in their social/emotional and academic confidence. They would be the “new kids” joining an already well-established group in their home school, in their community. It is a very different experience than what happens to all the sixth graders in the district who enter WUMS at the same time.
· One of the justifications for moving our fifth and sixth graders is the fact that one of the schools in the new district has a “STEM Lab”. This lab is in Woodstock Elementary, so unless the 5th and 6th graders go there, they will not have the opportunity to use that lab. Our teachers in Barnard have all actively participated in creating new science units based on the New Generation Science Standards, which include the requirements of a STEM program. We also have a partnership with the Montshire Museum, which incorporates engineering through use of their materials and expertise. The fact that there is a STEM lab in one school, does not justify moving our fifth and sixth graders out of their own school.
· Another justification for moving our 5th and 6th graders is a misleading statement that the students in the district enter middle school with very different experiences. When asked for clarification, the answer is: other schools have Phys Ed, Spanish or Art twice a week. There is no mention of the core academic subjects of math, literacy, social studies or science. All of the elementary schools teach common science, literacy, social studies and math concepts, skills and units. The Middle School staff has not been asked for their input regarding different experiences and how those experiences do or do not affect populations of students entering 7th grade from individual schools.
· The charts and graphs and test scores presented during presentations are misleading. The standardized tests only evaluate mathematics and literacy. Barnard students consistently perform higher than the state average on test scores. There are no standardized tests for Science, Phys. Ed, Art or Spanish. The different experiences referred to do not impact standardized test performance.
So far, those are the defining points to justify moving/bussing our 5th and 6th graders away from their community. These justifications simply do not warrant splitting up our exceptional elementary school.
Finally, we want to thank our community for the consistently positive support through the years – the BEES, the Barnard Education Fund, Twin Farms, The Silver Lake Association, and the many families and students for making Barnard Academy the successful, unique community school that it is today.
The Barnard Academy Staff
February 13, 2017