The Twelve Days of Fairfax

On the eve of holiday recess, BFA Fairfax gave to me…….

TWELVE lunchers lunching,

ELEVEN seniors smiling (behind their masks of course),

TEN first graders coloring,

NINE P.E.  players,

EIGHT ballers balling,

SEVEN sledders sledding,

SIX graham cracker crafters,

FIVE Administrative stars,

FOUR brass musicians,

Three IPad workers,

Two rock star nurses,

And the BEST PK-12 community!

On behalf of the Administration, faculty, staff, and students at BFA Fairfax, we hope you have a restful break filled with family, friends, laughter, and joy!! See you in 2022!

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

Scholar’s Bowl Is Back!

By Madeline King and Michelle Lynch, December 16 2021

After a brief hiatus during the 2020-2021 school year, BFA’s Scholar’s Bowl team is back and better than ever! On December 1st, they attended their second meet of the school year at BFA St. Albans. BFA brought two teams, which with combined statistics won 5 out of the 10 matches played.

BFA Fairfax Team A during their last match at the meet on December 1st. Left to right: Ryan Thatcher, Jacob Antonovich, Michelle Lynch, Madeline King

Scholar’s Bowl is an extracurricular activity that tests the participants’ knowledge on topics ranging from art to biology to video games. Meets consist of multiple matches where two four-person teams representing different schools compete. Individuals buzz in to answer questions and accumulate points. At the end of multiple rounds, the total points for each team is calculated to determine the winner.

This year, new recruits have brought the group’s total number to the double digits. When they hold practices after school on Thursday, anywhere between five and fifteen students attend, depending on other school-related events occurring on that day. Gabe Grant, the club’s advisor, almost always brings Smartfood Popcorn to make practice even more fun. Some of the group’s favorite questions originate in lightning rounds, where a category is given that encompasses all of the answers. “Personally, one of my favorite lighting rounds was one that named particular shades of red, yellow, and blue, and we had to guess which color it was,” member Madeline King said.

Some of the team after a Thursday afternoon practice. Left to right: Alden Kalbfleisch, Jacob Antonovich, Madeline King, Michelle Lynch, Bri Start, Emma Sweet.

Over the years, the group has built up a welcoming community that allows people to exercise and build upon their academic strengths in a collaborative way. “Scholar’s Bowl is a lot of fun,” member Chris Dukeshire said. “I like to show off and it gives me a chance to show my knowledge.” 

One thing’s for sure, now that it’s back and its community is growing, it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon!

By Madeline King and Michelle Lynch, December 16 2021

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Tis The Season of Giving and Celebration:

Amidst the continuing Pandemic we are often reminded that there are both needs, but also so many generous individuals and families in our community. Each Holiday season, some of our regular traditions at BFA Fairfax are to support area families in need with their own celebrations.

With the holiday season in full swing, one thing that never ceases to amaze is the generosity of this community in support of its families who need extra care during this time of year. Each year, the BFA Fairfax Mental Health team organizes a Mitten Tree to help support those families that are part of our learning community that need extra support for the holiday season. In addition to the Mitten Tree, the National Honor Society, in partnership with United Way and Operation Happiness, has been holding a Holiday Food Drive. This food drive will support families from across our region with the food they need to have a holiday meal. Students have set up boxes in classrooms with flyers indicating current need and our community has been hard at work to ensure that no family goes without this season. On Wednesday, NHS students will work with United Way to sort toys for Operation Happiness that will go on to support 36 local families. This effort has truly been a demonstration of BFA’s mission at work. Ensuring that students leave here with an understanding of what it means to be community members who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. 

For the last two years the BFA Fairfax Mitten Tree has taken on a virtual format amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Community members access a Google form to select their Mittens rather than selecting them off the tree as in years past. While this new format was a break from tradition it has allowed the BFA Miten Tree to be shared near and far and is now accessed by a wider portion of our own and surrounding communities. This year the need in our community generated nearly 250 virtual mittens and as of 8am Monday, December 13th all of them had been selected by community members, teachers, local businesses, and those outside of the Fairfax community who wanted to ensure all families had a wonderful holiday season. This outpouring of compassion and support at a time when so many are in need is one of the many things that makes this community so special. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to all of those who participated for their generosity and for modeling for our students what it truly means to be a responsible and engaged community member at a time when community is what we need now more than ever. 

And it wouldn’t be a holiday season without our students performing in our annual Band and Choral Ensemble Holiday Performances. It was such a joy to enjoy two nights of full attendance for both our Middle Grades and High School performers opening the season.  Sitting in the High School Gymnasium with so many families and community members to share the holiday cheer as our ensembles and featured performers sang, played and spoke to a packed house on each night truly made the week both for those in attendance and for those watching via Facebook live. 

Also in the Holiday Spirit, on December 10th, the BFA Chamber Singers participated in the annual Madrigal Festival sponsored by ACDA.  While it looked a little different this year because of Covid-19 precautions, the singers had an amazing time and put on a spectacular performance.  The Chamber Singers were professionally recorded at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington where they received some advice from the wonderful retired music educator, Carl Reccia.  Students were then able to catch the opening matinee of Steven Spielberg’s adaption of the classic movie/musical, “West Side Story”, shop, and have dinner before meeting approximately 200 students from schools around Vermont to perform “Carol of the Bells” and “Deck the Halls”.  The singers were introduced by Burlington’s Mayor, Miro Weinberger and performed in front of the huge lighted tree on Church Street.  Each school then moved to their own “station” on Church Street to perform on their own.  Many community members and parents came to see the performances and it was a festive and fun experience.


Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator

Student Leaders: Climate Action Club

Charlotte Wood, founder of BFA’s Climate Action Club, leading the YCLA retreat at Goddard College on November 17, 2021. 
BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club members gathered together at the beginning of the YCLA retreat.
BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club members gathered together at the beginning of the YCLA retreat.

YCLA stands for Youth Climate Leaders Academy and is a program created by Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP). The YCLA program is designed to support high school students across the state in planning and implementing projects that mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. During the YCLA kick-off retreat sessions, students committed to pursuing action against climate change are given opportunities to collaborate and connect with other students and a variety of experts on various sectors of climate change action, become more inspired, and have fun. The YCLA retreat includes time for school teams to plan their projects, receive professional project consultations, and participate in various project skill-related workshops. This year’s retreat was led by BFA’s own Charlotte Wood!

The BFA Climate Action Club was thrilled to participate in YCLA for the fourth time in a row. Students a part of the club were eager to dedicate time to climate change project planning, collaborate with other students in similar boats, connect with and receive guidance from professionals, and attend workshops beneficial to both themselves, as individual activists, and to the development and execution of their projects. 

Beatrice Angelino, Charlotte Wood, Adeline Wood, Magda Eckstein, and Csenge Hutkai, members of the energy subgroup, creating a systems map in relation to their project.

Currently, the BFA Fairfax Climate Action Club is actively working on two main projects, which fall under the umbrella of their ambitious long-term goal of one day reaching net zero as a school. First, the energy subgroup of the Climate Action Club is currently working on obtaining solar to charge the school’s electric buses, which are presently being charged through our school’s electric system, which majorly relies on fossil fuels. Second, the waste subgroup of the Climate Action Club has been creating a survey to understand better what areas of waste management/disposal BFA students need to be educated further on. The waste subgroup has also connected with the school’s food group to develop and identify efficient ways to reduce waste at BFA Fairfax. 

Laura Heil, the club’s advisor, Gracie Clark, Makayla Shanahan, Csenge Hutkai, Charlotte Wood, Beatrice Angelino, Magda Eckstein, and Adeline Wood at the end of the YCLA retreat.

During the YCLA retreat, BFA students were able to make meaningful connections with other students from across the state trying to implement actions against climate change, devote time to project planning and development, receive support from experts, and attend workshops valuable to the creation and execution of projects. Additionally, members of the club who attended were able to spend quality time with one another, creating deeper connections and relationships within the club. 

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

A Fall to Remember AT BFA Fairfax

Today marks the first day of the High School winter sports and activities season at BFA Fairfax. Students, staff, coaches, and families alike have been eagerly anticipating practices, games, and events in their favorite winter co-curricular activities.  As we prepare for those to begin, it is also a perfect time to reflect on our recent Fall season, and the numerous successes experienced by our school community. 

Cheer!

In late October, the middle and high school band, chorus, chamber choir, and jazz band performed their first live concert in nearly two years.  In a gym full of smiles and pride, attendees were treated to the spectacular talents of our student musicians.  This was the first event since the start of the pandemic that has allowed an indoor audience at BFA Fairfax, and we remain thankful for the understanding and cooperation of all attendees in wearing masks, and contributing to the ongoing safety and success of future events.

We are extremely proud of all our middle and high school athletic teams in the completion of a safe and exciting fall season!  The Varsity Girls Soccer team won the Mountain Division, and made an exciting run through the Division 3 tournament, ultimately falling in the state semifinals. 

Varsity Girls Soccer Team

Numerous players made the All-Mountain Team, two players were named to the Division 3 All-State Team, Kali Wooster was named the Mountain Division Player of the Year, and Coach Jojo Lynch was named the Mountain Division Coach of the Year.

BFA Football Team

The BFA/Lamoille Football team advanced to the Division 3 State Championship game, falling to a tough and talented Windsor team. Five players were named to the North/South Football All-Star team led by our own Head Coach, Craig Sleeman.  Coach Sleeman will also be leading the Vermont team in next summer’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. We are most proud that the team was also named the recipients of the Stan Amidon Sportsmanship Trophy for the second time in three years!

The High School Girls and Boys Cross Country team held the famous Fairfax Relays costume race after it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The annual event highlighting the pride and spirit of cross country running was a welcome return to some normalcy. Additionally, the Girls and Boys teams placed 6th and 4th respectively at the Division 3 State Championship Meet, and qualified for the “Meet of Champions” for the first time.

Cross Country
Varsity Boys Soccer Team

The Varsity Boys Soccer team completed a successful season, advancing to the state quarterfinals against perennial powerhouse Winooski.  Although they lost the game, they received many public accolades for their class and sportsmanship over the course of three games this season against Winooski. Multiple team members were named to the All-Mountain Team, and three players were named to the Division 3 All-State team.

BFA Fairfax also hosted our first-ever Homecoming Fall Festival! The event was a huge success with its wide array of activities for high school students including food, yard games, pumpkin carving, dancing, photo booths, and an opportunity to celebrate Homecoming Week. 

Harvest Celebration

Six BFA Fairfax student-athletes attended the annual Athletic Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont Principals Association and the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association.  This event provided valuable leadership training by nationally renowned speakers and coaches to students from around Vermont. Students were able to fine tune their leadership skills and bring them back to their respective teams at our school. We look forward to seeing their new skills in action over future seasons.

Six BFA Fairfax student-athletes attended the annual Athletic Leadership Conference hosted by the Vermont Principals Association and the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association. 
BFA Fairfax performance of hit musical Mamma Mia

Finally, the BFA Fairfax performance of hit musical Mamma Mia proved to be one of the biggest highlights of the fall, and was a welcome return to live theater in our community! Attendees sang, danced, clapped and cheered their way through the show-stopping numbers by our incredibly talented performing arts students! 

This truly was a Fall to remember in our school and community.  An enormous thank you needs to be extended to our students, staff, coaches, advisors, families, and fans who contributed to the success, and more importantly the safety, of the season! We look forward to more highlights now that the winter season is upon us! Congratulations to all, and good luck!

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

The Importance of being thankful and kind…

There is nothing easy about the ongoing circumstances that have impacted us all since March of 2020. The ramifications of the COVID-19 global pandemic are profound, wide ranging, and leave us frequently with a feeling that it will never end. This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on all the things in my life that I am grateful for, and the kindness I experience both personally and professionally. 

Research has found that people who regularly express gratitude are healthier and happier. Gratitude requires an appreciation of the positive people and experiences in our lives. It is easy to focus on the challenges and the unfairness that we all have encountered throughout the pandemic. However, taking a moment daily to identify one thing that you are thankful for will result in feeling better. 

I am thankful for so many people and experiences, both positive and challenging, in my life. This was a challenging weekend for my family. My dog of thirteen years peacefully passed away on Saturday and we were all filled with sadness, laughter about funny memories, and a sense of gratitude for the unconditional love Buddy provided us. It was a powerful reminder that we are going through something that others may not be aware of, and the burdens we carry.

After twenty-five years working in public education, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to work with amazing educators, students, and families. This has never been more true than over the past two years. I am grateful for all the dedicated staff members at BFA Fairfax who continuously and selflessly meet the needs of all of our students. One of the best parts of being a Principal is the opportunity to engage with students. BFA Fairfax has amazing students who remind me daily about their positivity, resilience, and ability to demonstrate kindness. Finally, I value and respect all of our families for their patience, as well as their gestures of appreciation and support.  

I understand that there is so much that potentially divides us, and we are reminded about this every day in the media. However, I remain convinced that we have more in common than our differences. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives, sharing my successes and challenges, and remaining mindful of the importance of being thankful. I hope you all have the opportunity to spend some quality time with the people you love, eat a good meal, laugh, and get some rest over the coming week. I appreciate the ongoing support of this amazing community. Be safe, be kind, and be well!


Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Hiram Bellows Day

BFA high school students participated in our annual Hiram Bellows Day of Service on October 13th.  This day of service honors the legacy of the school’s founder and reminds us of the vital role everyone plays in building a strong, safe, and beautiful community. Service activities included working with Fairfax Fire and Rescue, Fairfax Recreation Department, Fairfax Historical Department, and Fletcher Town. 

Students worked hard to beautify the exterior campus, including cleaning busses, painting a sunflower mural, repainting safety lines and benches. They also worked on clearing trails in the woods and recreation paths, gleaning crops from the school farm to donate to the local food shelf, and planting flowers in Ada’s garden. 

Inside the building, students cooked meals for the Spectrum Youth Drop-in Center, organized the drama closet, and participated in the A Million Thanks program. This is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation to our U.S. military men and women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, etc.

In the community, students washed and cleaned the fire trucks, organized summer camp supplies, worked in the ambulance bays, packed rummage sale items for donation, and worked on various projects with the Historical Society.

I am proud of the giving spirit of the students and their dedication to our community. I wish to extend a special thank you to the high school teaching team that organized this event: Alana Torraca, Becky Harrocks, Chris Cowey, Jenn Hart, and Sara Villeneuve.

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Believing in the possibility of a more sustainable transportation future

In the middle of the day on Thursday, October 28, 2021, 6th grade students were playing at recess; elementary students were enjoying PE outside and high schoolers were passing between classes when they noticed an event happening in the parking lot. Several students in the high school paused to take selfies with a special guest in the background. Some of our 6th grade students paused their basketball game and asked if they could meet our guest when he arrived.

Patsy Parker, BFA Transportation Manager talks to the crowd about the new Electric Bus
Patsy Parker, BFA Transportation Manager talks to the crowd about the new Electric Bus

After the cameras were set up and the reporters and observers were organized, Governor Phil Scott arrived to join Patsy Parker and Charlotte Wood, along with representatives from Champlain Valley School District. The occasion was a press conference to formally announce the arrival of Vermont’s first Electric Buses. 

While electric busses may not be news to us in Fairfax, we were delighted to share our excitement with the entire state.  Yes, we have been using our electric busses since the beginning of the school year, however over the last month, students have already begun to work with the data we have been collecting from our charging stations to measure the power usage and incorporate this information into a variety of projects (might solar panels be next?). 

It was a proud moment for all of us to share with the governor in the celebration of this years long process coming to fruition. I am so grateful for our Transportation Director, Patsy Parker’s work to complete the grant application, research along with her tireless efforts to tend to the myriad details that went into spec’ing the buses and infrastructure so that their arrival and implementation was flawless.

I am also grateful and awed by Charlotte Wood’s poise and clarity of conviction as she spoke to the press on Thursday.  She truly speaks to a belief in what is possible. As Charlotte said, and I think we all agree, “I am absolutely thrilled to be one of the three districts in the state to have won this grant award to bring electric buses to Fairfax! Incorporating electric buses into our school district’s transportation system is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to combating climate change and protecting the environment”

Here is one of the several news pieces that aired after our event on Thursday: https://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/vermont-rolls-out-electric-bus-pilot-program/

Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator

Wednesday Exploratory Experiences 

In the midst of the ongoing challenges presented by Covid-19 in our schools, BFA Fairfax Elementary continues to look for ways to provide our students unique learning experiences that require problem solving, creative thinking, and collaboration. This year we are using our Early Release Wednesdays to pilot a different format to engage students in inquiry activities. We remain aware that we are preparing our students to be citizens in a rapidly changing world, to work in jobs that will require an ever changing set of thinking skills, and for occupations that do not currently exist.  

Coincidently, I recently attended my daughter Gracie’s Family Day at her college. Gracie is a freshman at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout the day, I observed many examples of amazing student work and encountered a consistent theme of supporting students in understanding themselves, learning to advocate, and developing employable skills. The focus on students learning from their mistakes, giving and receiving critical feedback, and having space to be creative resonated with me. 

This visit provided many valuable connections to our student learning opportunities, and the skills and dispositions we want them to demonstrate. In Vermont, we refer to employable skills as transferable skills. The Vermont Transferable skills are:

  • Clear and Effective Communication
  • Creative and Practical Problem-Solving
  • Informed and Integrative Thinking
  • Responsible and Involved Citizenship
  • Self-Direction 

As a PreK-12 school we continue to prepare our students to learn and demonstrate proficiency in the Vermont Transferable skills. We constantly are looking for ways to embed learning experiences that foster these necessary and important skills. 

On our Early Release Wednesdays we are piloting a different format and schedule that allows for exercise, inquiry, collaboration, creativity, and fun. On Early Release Wednesday, our students participate in a range of learning experiences that provide opportunities to develop these skills and dispositions in flexible learning environments. Here are some examples of activities in which our students have participated:

  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Google Drawing
  • Insect Investigations
  • Making Applesauce & Apple Cider
  • Kinesthetic Movement To Support A Healthy Lifestyle
  • Ocean Animal Investigations  
  • Building Structures In The Woods
  • Cardboard Creations
  • Coding
  • Autumn Art Projects

This is not a new focus, but rather a different structure that we believe will allow for more student voice and choice, community engagement, and collaboration with community partners. We believe that our students are never too young to drive their learning in ways that foster the development of 21 Century Skills. Our mission at BFA Fairfax remains to ensure all students become informed, literate, critical thinkers who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. Thank you to our staff and community for their ongoing efforts to support our students as we prepare them for a rapidly changing world. 

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Intermediate French Students Get a Taste of Culture without Leaving the State

At the museum, students were able to see works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Claude Monet, including the first Monet painting to be brought to the United States. Many were surprised to learn that Shelburne Museum had so many original paintings by Claude Monet. One student commented, “I’m really glad you taught us about looking at the paintings up close and then backing away so that you can see the shapes and images slowly come into focus.” 

On Friday, October 8, BFA’s intermediate French class took their learning about French impressionists beyond the classroom and visited Shelburne Museum. Here they saw the collection of impressionist art housed in the Electra Havermeyer Webb Memorial Building which is a reconstruction of the Webb family’s 1930’s New York city apartment. Before visiting, students spent the week learning about the French impressionist movement, Claude Monet’s controversial exposition of “Soleil levant” at the Salon in Paris in 1874, and some of the vocabulary to discuss the difference between a classical and impressionist work of art in French. 

Many students hadn’t visited the museum since they were children and enjoyed visiting the rest of the grounds, riding the carousel, exploring the Ticonderoga, and soaking in the perfect fall weather and scenery. They capped off the field trip with lunch at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington and said that the crêpes were “délicieux”! 

Written by: Madame Alana Torranca

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.