THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Second-Graders Become Nature Explorers in Four Winds Trip

Today’s on The FWSU Story, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Julie Ferguson, a second-grade classroom teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School. 


GEMS students experience their first field trip to the Senesac property in Georgia.

Earlier this month, the second graders at GEMS enjoyed their first field trip, organized by Four Winds volunteers.


Students learn about trees!

It was a wonderful trip to the Senesac property in Georgia which provided children with the opportunity to learn about trees in one of the best flexible learning environments around: the great outdoors!


Students talk about their learning.

Students started off their morning with a puppet show about what a tree does and why it’s important. Then the students broke into classes and visited three stations.


Students loved exploring the outdoors!

The children learned how to identify different trees and about the parts of the tree and their jobs. These students were proud to share their new learning with their families and classmates!

Julie Ferguson Teacher


Julie Ferguson is a second-grade teacher at Georgia Elementary Middle School.




THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Elementary Receives Recognition for Positive School Climate

For the fourth consecutive year, the Fletcher Elementary School has been recognized for its exceptional support of a positive school climate and the social competence of its students.

Fletcher Falcons are proud of their VT-PBIS School of Merit ribbon!

Fletcher Falcons are proud of their VT-PBIS School of Merit ribbon!

For three years, the Fletcher School has been designated a Vermont PBIS School of Merit by the Positive Interventions and Supports Team of the Vermont Agency of Education and the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion Collaboration. The designation recognizes the Fletcher School’s unwavering commitment to supporting a positive school climate and the social skills of students, which in turn bolster academic achievements. Prior to being designated a PBIS School of Merit, the Fletcher School was recognized for one year as a PBIS School of Recognition.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an approach to creating school-wide proactive systems that support students’ social-emotional and academic success. The Fletcher School has prioritized strategic, proactive teaching of school-wide behavior expectations and a formal system of behavioral recognitions and supports related to those expectations for all students. The school is in its fourth full year of implementing PBIS.

Fletcher PBIS Leadership Team (Left to Right): Sarah Tucker, Sandi Simmons, Principal Chris Dodge, Rebecca Cardone.

Fletcher PBIS Leadership Team

The Fletcher School has created clear and concise behavior expectations for each physical area of the school, on the school buses and for field trips. These expectations are modeled and taught to students throughout the year. Individual classroom and school-wide successes are recognized and celebrated regularly. The school’s PBIS Team uses data from classroom and office behavior referrals to identify students, location around the school, times of day and other demographics needing additional support. Behavior data is provided to families throughout the year as part of parent conferences. The team is coordinated by School Counselor Sandi Simmons.

VT-PBIS Ribbon

VT-PBIS Ribbon

In 2014-15, the Fletcher School was designated a Vermont PBIS school of Recognition based on its strategic use of data, celebrating school-wide and individual successes and working to support behavioral challenges, as well as noted decrease in behavior issues overall. For the past three years, the PBIS School of Merit designation has been based on a continuation of that work, as well as receiving exceptional scores on its state-conducted school-wide evaluation of its PBIS implementation.

This year’s award was presented at the Vermont PBIS Leadership forum in Killington. In addition to recognizing successful PBIS schools, the Forum offered a variety of professional development workshops that were attended by the Fletcher School’s team.

THE FWSU STORY: Coffee House Still Going Strong at BFA Fairfax

Coffee House Mural at BFA Fairfax

On Friday nights throughout the year, the Middle School Gym is transformed into an intimate performance space filled with students, parents, and other community members.

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Last Friday night was the kickoff to another season of BFA Coffee House. Coffee House is a student-led, student-produced, and student-performed event that showcases the talent of our amazing young people (and occasionally, staff members) surrounded by baked goods and, of course, coffee.

Coffee House has been a tradition at BFA for the past ten years. Obviously, the students who initiated this exciting opportunity have graduated, but new leaders have emerged to keep the show moving forward. In addition to fresh leadership, each year new students arrive bringing their own unique talent and energy to the project.

“It’s really nice to learn a new song and be able to perform it in front of a community. It’s a cultural mixing pot for the arts. It’s a safe environment.” – Quentin, Student Performer


BFA’s Coffee House is produced and performed by students!

One of the best parts of the first Coffee House is watching new students take a risk and share their talent with their peers. The performer’s excitement when they hear the cheers of the crowd is exhilarating. Typically, students continue to perform throughout the rest of their high school career. This makes every Coffee House a custom blend of new talent and seasoned performers — a mix of singing, poetry, comedy, piano, and magic.


Many students continue to perform at BFA Coffee House throughout their high school experience.

“I love the sense of community. We are all supportive of the community and each other. We all come together to appreciate the arts.” – Annalise, Student Performer

The next Coffee House is scheduled for December 1st at BFA Fairfax. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t miss this student-designed and orchestrated experience.

A Year of Innovation, Part III

This is the third and final blog post in the series featuring the unique innovative lab spaces enhance learning at FWSU.  FWSU is proud to offer innovation spaces in all three of our schools. and how each of them impacts student learning. Today, you can learn about innovation space at Fletcher Elementary.


Last year, Fletcher School received a 3D scanner, 3D printer, 10 HP Notebooks, a large format printer and large format display to create a Learning Studio in the classroom. Students use the equipment to participate in tasks provided by Digital Promise. This digital learning studio was awarded as an effort from HP and Microsoft’s to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.


In addition, as a result of FWSU Launch, Fletcher school also purchased The Fletcher School purchased 15 OSMO units last month as part of a Launch FWSU Grant underwritten by the Bay and Paul FoundationOSMO is a revolutionary new technology that uses the camera vision of an iPad, along with a specially designed reflector, to recognize and capture what is happening in front of it. In other words, it combines digital vision and recording with the physical manipulation of materials.


This year, the innovation space is continuing to grow with the addition of the mobile maker space. This new resource will allow the innovation space to expand and be a part of multiple classrooms. In addition, FES is looking how it can incorporate the Cricut Maker as a tool for students to use in creative design.


Fletcher’s innovation spaces are designed to creatively make the most of the digital learning tools for a school of their size. We are looking forward to all of the innovative learning projects that will be designed in the innovative spaces at Fletcher.


THE FWSU STORY: Celebrating a Positive School Culture at GEMS

School culture is as important as the instruction that takes place every day. Where students feel valued, welcome, and safe, and where there is a sense of community and individuality. That is where student success occurs.


A gathering of GEMS!

Such an atmosphere contributes to effective teaching and learning and to genuine communication, both within and outside the school. Classrooms at GEMS strive to establish a positive culture within local classrooms and as a whole throughout the entire school.

GEMS students
GEMS students participate in a school celebration!

Recently, our elementary school gathered to celebrate our first month of school. Students and staff gathered, all wearing their “I am a GEM” t-shirt.  stating: “I am Respectful” “I am Responsible” and “I am Safe”.

Students demonstrate Tae Kwon Do to their peers.
Students demonstrate Tai Kwon Do at the Schoolwide Assembly in September.

We were fortunate to hear a duet performed by two siblings and also observed a demonstration in Tae Kwon Do known as Chon Ji. We always start each assembly with the pledge of allegiance and a peer greeting and conclude with our state song.

Students demonstrating Chon Ji

Consistency in this part of our agenda helps students have a known consistent routine which helps foster positive student behavior.

Students performing a musical piece for their peers.
Students perform a song for their peers.

The students had this to say:

  • “I was so nervous to perform in front of everyone, but when I got down I felt GREAT!”
  • “My brother and I practiced a lot and we made many mistakes. When we performed, it came out perfect. I felt really good about playing and would like to do it again. It made me feel really good inside”

It was an incredible experience to bring so many students, all demonstrating such wonderful behaviors!

THE FWSU STORY: Preserving an Enduring Tradition at BFA Fairfax

Tomorrow, October 10, the voters of the Town of Fairfax will head to the polls to cast their vote on a $16M renovation project at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, VT.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

It’s been 20 years since there have been any renovations to the BFA Fairfax facility, and over 30 years since the middle and high school buildings have been updated. At this time, our aging campus is in need of revitalization to address the needs of our students and for the facility to remain viable for the future. The proposed bond will also address the need for better community spaces in which to gather for events and activities.

For over 3 years, a committee of the Fairfax School Board has studied the needs of our community and our school.

They created a plan that addresses our current needs while looking toward the future. This project reflects the unique heritage of our facilities and our community values: BFA Fairfax is the heart of our town. With voter approval of this comprehensive renovation of BFA Fairfax, it will be at least 25 years before any building upgrades to the middle/high school are needed in the future. 

The Heart of Fairfax

Hiram Bellows

BFA Fairfax Benefactor, Hiram Bellows

Ultimately, the bond is intended to continue the vision of BFA’s generous benefactor Hiram Bellows’ who sought to “further the education of children and young people so as to fit them for usefulness.” Mr. Bellows was acutely aware of the profound effects of technology and scientific advancement on the parameters of education, decreeing that the Academy should equip the students with “means and facilities for education as the times demand.” Hiram Bellows envisioned a modern academy of learning and the BFA Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (comprised of members of the school board and community) believe that a significant investment to upgrade our school is necessary to preserve the rich heritage of BFA Fairfax for future generations. BFA Fairfax is the heart of our community.

About the Project

This proposal will renovate and expand the high school as well as older sections of the middle school. Some key features of this project include, relocating the main entrance of the high school to the original main entrance with enhanced security at entry, ADA compliance, fire and safety upgrades, a new full size middle school gymnasium, a new 400-seat auditorium, upgrades to the library, a redesigned multi-purpose room for community and school events, centralized administration and guidance offices, and health offices, and much more.

To learn more, visit You can also read a recent article in the Saint Albans Messenger on this important project.

An artist rendering of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium -- an important element of learning that was part of the original BFA,

An artist’s conception of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium — restoring this important element of the original BFA.

There will be an important COMMUNITY INFORMATIONAL MEETING tonight (October 9) beginning at 6pm in the BFA Fairfax Multi-Purpose Room.

And don’t forget to VOTE! Polls will be open at BFA Fairfax from 7am-7pm in the Middle School Gym on October 10, 2017.

Let’s move to the future, mindful of the past.

Come Home To BFA Fairfax October 7-14

Changing leaves, crisp fall air, cider donuts and apple picking can only mean one thing: homecoming is here!


The 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming will take place the week of October 7-14.  A variety of events showcasing our 7-12 athletic teams, school spirit, and service initiatives will highlight the fun and festivities for all students, staff, alumni, and the greater community.  


For the Varsity football and soccer teams, the games will be even more special, as they will serve as the senior games recognizing graduating players’ four years of commitment to their teams and school.  

BFA Fairfax will also make history in hosting our first-ever night soccer games. Local business Pigeon Brothers Excavating offered to donate lights for the Friday and Saturday night soccer games in order to enhance the excitement and maximize community attendance.  


As with every Homecoming Week, BFA Fairfax student-athletes will be taking part in a service initiative as well.  During this year’s Homecoming events there will be donation buckets to raise money toward hurricane relief.  We are extremely fortunate to live in our community of Fairfax, and year after year our service-minded students find new ways to “pay it forward.”

Whether it’s the crazy costumes of the widely popular Fairfax Relays, the blazing maroon and blue of our new Lamoille/Fairfax co-op football team, or nighttime soccer games that bring you to campus, we look forward to seeing you at 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming!  Thank you to all our students, parents, and community volunteers who make this a spectacular annual event.



Saturday 10/7

  • Football SENIOR GAME vs. Windsor 2:30pm
  • Homecoming Semi-formal Dance (Grades 9-12) 7-10pm

Monday 10/9: Black Out Day

  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Richford (Melanoma Awareness Game) 4pm
  • 7th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. St. Albans City 4pm/5pm

Tuesday 10/10: Tropical Tuesday


Wednesday 10/11: U.S.A. Day

  • JV/V Girls Soccer vs. Enosburg 4pm

Thursday 10/12: Throwback Thursday

Friday 10/13: Maroon & White Day

  • High School Pep Rally 2pm
  • JV Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 4pm
  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

Saturday 10/14:

  • 8th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. Georgia 11am/12pm
  • Varsity Girls Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm