To the editor: I was disappointed to read in the July 15 article in the Reformer ("Windham Elementary closure up for vote") that some people in Windham have submitted a petition to close the local elementary school. Of the 38 people that signed this petition, it is my understanding that only two of them have children in the school. Parents who were interviewed for the article mainly expressed support and admiration for the school and its teachers.
WINDHAM — Voters will decide the fate of Windham Elementary School after parents petitioned …
Since I taught English and mathematics at Leland & Gray Middle and High School for 25 years, I feel qualified to respond to some of their concerns.
One concern is that students felt unprepared socially and academically. Many of the most academically and socially successful students I worked with were graduates of the Windham Elementary School. Two recent class valedictorians were WES graduates, and many members of the high school drama group, the L&G Players, and many outstanding athletes were from Windham. My experience over many years with students coming from the Windham Elementary School was that they were well-prepared academically, polite, and well-adjusted socially.
A second concern is that the state does not put out a report on where Windham students are in academics compared with other schools. The Vermont Agency of Education does report the results of standardized testing to parents, the school board, and the Windham Central Supervisory Union. Confidentiality laws prohibit publicly releasing these results because of the small number of students in each class.
A third issue is that Windham Elementary doesn’t offer as many electives as other elementary schools. The converse is also true. Other elementary schools are not connected to a nearby farm like Meadows Bee Farm, which Windham students go to for enrichment programs in sustainable agriculture, pollination patterns, and hands-on gardening. These students also benefit from community volunteers who work with them on music and drama productions that are tied to the curriculum. For young children, in my opinion, this kind of experiential learning provides a more well-rounded education than traditional classroom electives inside a larger school.
One person quoted in the article stated that no families moved to Windham during the pandemic. This statement needs to be supported by statistics from the town clerk’s office. What we do know is that there will be 18 children in the school next year, an increase of more than 100 percent. Also, Windham was the only local elementary school that stayed open full-time during the pandemic.
Another concern was that school taxes and budgets are too high. Although small rural schools throughout the state have suffered because of the current funding formula, the Vermont Legislature is in the process of changing the formula so that small rural schools are reimbursed fairly for the cost of educating their students.
I hope that the voters in Windham think carefully when they vote on September 7 and continue to support their town’s excellent small school.
Brattleboro, July 16