Lack of volunteers threatens CTES snow sports program

CAVENDISH, Vt. – The Cavendish Town Elementary School snow sports program, which is again being organized by snow sports program volunteer Jarrod Harper for the ninth year in a row, is in urgent need of on-snow volunteers in order to make the program viable.

Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman has decided not to organize the ski program through Green Mountain Unified School District schools this year, due to ongoing Covid-19 issues. TRSU will allow volunteer groups to take over the program at the individual schools.

CTES is actually in the best position to launch their snow sports program since they’ve run it through a volunteer group for years. However, with the lack of on-snow volunteers so far, Harper is worried that keeping his 3 to 1 student-instructor safety ratio may force him to make tough choices including limiting the program to certain grades or canceling the program all together.

Part of the problem is that there was no program last year due to Covid lockdown, so the year-to-year volunteers need to be “corralled back in.” So far Harper’s numbers stand at five volunteers, a far cry from the 30 that cycled in and out during the ski season two years ago. Typically, Harper has approximately 65 students that participate in the program.

The feedback Harper has received is that “everybody is always positive about the program,” but he’ll need more than shout-outs to make it work. Worst case, Harper hopes to at least be able to provide the program for grades 3 to 6 but ideally wants everyone to participate. He is not willing, however, to reduce the 3 to 1 ratio, which is “too important for safety.”

Signups for the program for students and volunteers will be Friday, Dec. 3, from 4-7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 4, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Interested volunteers can also contact Harper directly at 802-770-2892 or message him directly on Facebook. Volunteers must be fully vaccinated, pass a background check, and be fingerprinted.

Already some changes have been made to streamline the program, including shortening the program from eight weeks down to six on Tuesdays, from 12-3:30 p.m., spanning from Jan. 11 to Feb. 15, 2022.

Transportation has also been an early challenge in the planning, especially since the school is not technically running the program. Harper has gotten approval from the CTES Principal Katherine Fogg and Fierman to allow a local bus driver to drive CTES students on the bus to the mountain on Tuesdays from the school. This year, however, parents will be responsible for their child’s pickup at the mountain.

The program fee remains the same as two years ago, but due to fundraising efforts in the past, Harper can help defray some of that cost for students in need. However, Harper has no control over the mountain rental prices. This year, helmets are no longer included in the rental package, which will require parents to purchase helmets on their own. Harper said he might be able to help out a little bit with helmet costs.

CAES is looking to follow CTES’s example with parents working on forming a snow sports committee, according to Fogg.

Green Mountain Principal Keith Hill said he hasn’t heard of anything happening to organize a volunteer snow sports committee at this point at the middle and high school. However, as they get closer to when the program would launch, that may change.

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