Parents speak out against a district wide early release day

Superintendent Fierman has suggested that the GMUSD Board align all school schedules to follow that to CTES. Photo provided

CHESTER, Vt. – During the recent Green Mountain Unified School District Board meeting on March 17, parents and community members weighed in on the soon-to-be-decided issue of whether to align all the school schedules to mirror Cavendish Town Elementary School, which includes an early release day on Tuesdays, allowing for teachers to have weekly embedded professional development time. Green Mountain Unified School District Board and Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District are meeting for a joint session on Wednesday, March 23 to make the decision together.

Two Rivers Supervisory Union Superintendent Lauren Fierman has suggested that all the schools be on the same schedule, so teachers across the district can benefit as a whole. Should the boards agree to allow the early release day and development time, parents will need to find childcare solutions for that half-day each week. Cavendish has been able to provide an afterschool program that covers childcare for that day, but childcare for all schools is in the process of being worked out and is not a certainty. This weekly development time would replace the five full days currently in place that parents have already been compensating for.

The boards will determine if the benefits of joint teacher development time outweigh the challenge of finding additional childcare for students. If both boards do not agree to allow that shift for all schools, then Cavendish’s schedule will change to mirror the other schools, ending a practice that has been in place for over 30 years. The CTES school days on the other four days have been extended to make up instruction time lost on the Tuesday half-days.

In prior meetings, Fierman has said, “I believe there is a clear benefit for our teachers, and therefore our students, in having this.”

Of the 12 parents that spoke, nine voiced their opposition to the change, citing the childcare costs, a concern that kids have been out of school too much already, and a question on whether the weekly professional development time was more effective than full days. Three parents expressed their frustration with transparency from the board and the TRSU, although one said they thought the schedule was a good idea conceptually, but felt “out of the loop.” Board member Josh Schroeder also expressed a concern that parents were unclear about how the issue would impact them.

Chester Andover Elementary School Parent Jess Black noted that the half-day would be a chunk of time she and other parents would have to take off of work if there was not after school programming during those hours. “That’s essentially asking parents to use 72 hours of their own paid time off for this, and that’s really not fair,” said Black.

When asked whether childcare would be provided for those hours, Fierman said she was trying to make that happen, knowing the issue was a concern. She later added that she wouldn’t make the recommendation unless there was a childcare plan tentatively in place.

Parent John Soulier said the change would put a huge burden on parents, especially single parents, and asked the board to weigh that in their decision. Shelby Soulier expressed concern over increased costs of the childcare even if made available.

CAES parent Trisha Paradis questioned whether a program that works for CTES, which is a smaller school, should be adapted to the other schools in the district, saying that trying to fit everyone in the same mold is difficult.

CAES parent Rosamund Conroy said she and her husband were against the proposal and questioned whether the success of Cavendish test scores were attributable to the embedded professional development.

When Board member Katie Murphy suggested that they consider a compromise on professional development time, Fierman said that everything was still on the table.

The GMUSD and LMHUUSD boards will meet together on Wednesday, March 23 at from 6-8 p.m. at the GMUHS Library and via Zoom. The link can be found on the TRSU website.

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