LUDLOW, Vt. – During the Ludlow Mount Holly Unified Union School District meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 9, Two Rivers Supervisory Union’s Superintendent Lauren Fierman discussed her recommendation to align the school schedules for all five TRSU schools, determining whether to include an early release day every week for all schools, mirroring the one at Cavendish Town Elementary school, or whether to eliminate the early release day for Cavendish altogether.
According to Fierman, there are a couple of benefits to the Cavendish schedule; the primary being an increase of professional development hours, replacing five in-service days, or the equivalent of 40 hours, with the approximate 75 hours that the half-days would allow. It would also allow all teachers within the district to share the same development time, bolstering teachers from the smaller schools especially, and allowing them input from the other teachers in their grade level. She said that teachers and administrators have had so many initiatives that have been disrupted over the last two years that she can “see the benefit to this very clearly.”
Fierman also said that with consistent professional development time, the teachers would be able to conquer long-term projects that would otherwise be impossible if they were just meeting for five days scattered throughout the school year. Better test results are also likely, with Cavendish test scores consistently topping those of the Chester Andover Elementary, although Fierman says that Ludlow and Cavendish often have interchangeable leading student scores.
Scheduling is the biggest drawback. Cavendish has a half-day on Tuesdays, which forces parents to arrange for childcare after the early release. That being said, hours are not lost in the classroom. Cavendish adds time on both ends of the school day during the other four days to compensate. A shift like this in the schedule would be manageable, but still disruptive.
Fierman said that the advantages of the Cavendish schedule are clear, and that the question is rather, “does the benefit outweigh the cost to individual families.”
For several years, Cavendish has arranged for an after school program on Tuesdays to help parents. Fierman admits that this type of program may not be a viable solution district-wide since there may not be the staff or facilities available.
Above all, Fierman hopes that both boards, acting on behalf of both districts within the TRSU, will come to one conclusion. This would align schools from GMUSD including CTES, CAES and Green Mountain Union Middle/High School with those from LMHUUSD, which include Ludlow Elementary School and Mount Holly School. Fierman is therefore proposing that both school boards agree to a joint meeting to discuss the issue. She will be proposing the same joint meeting to the GMUSD at their board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 17.
To date, parents and staff who answered surveys on the issue have been split, even among Cavendish residents. Cavendish staff are largely in favor of keeping the current schedule, although Fierman did say that there were a few that were opposed. She said that many expressed support as long as the child care was available, but would not otherwise.
GMUSD Board Chair Joe Fromberger, who attended the meeting as an audience member, urged the LMHUUSD board to consider a joint session saying it was “imperative that we all do the same thing at the same time.” The LMHUUSD board agreed to a mutual session so they could decide on the issue together with GMUSD.
Fierman is hoping to have the issue decided by March, so that any school or schools that do shift schedules have time to prepare.
The next regular LMHUUSD meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9 at 6 p.m., via Zoom or in-person at the Mount Holly School in the Library.