The FWSU Story: Come Home to BFA Fairfax October 7-12

Fall in Fairfax is characterized by crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes and amazing Vermont foliage. It also means Homecoming is here! 2019 BFA Fairfax Homecoming will take place the week of October 7-12. 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.  

As with every Homecoming Week, BFA Fairfax students will be taking part in a service initiative as well. During this year’s Homecoming football game, we will be cooperating with Make a Wish Vermont. 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.”

We look forward to seeing you at 2019 BFA Fairfax Homecoming!  Thank you to all our students, parents, and community volunteers who make this week a spectacular annual event.

BFA FAIRFAX HOMECOMING WEEK – – OCTOBER 7-12, 2109

Monday 10/7

  • JV Football vs. North Country 4pm
  • JV Boys Soccer vs. BFA St. Albans 4pm
  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Richford 4pm

Tuesday 10/8

  • Fairfax Relays!!

Wednesday 10/9:

  • 8th Girls and Boys Soccer vs. Westford 4pm
  • 7th Girls and Boys Soccer vs. Vergennes 5pm

Thursday 10/10:

  • JV Girls Soccer vs. Enosburg 4pm

Friday 10/11:

  • 8th Girls and Boys Soccer vs. Fairfield 4pm/5pm
  • Farm to School Harvest Dinner

Saturday 10/12:

  • JV/V Girls Soccer vs. MVU 10am
  • JV/V Boys Soccer vs. Hazen 12pm
  • Football vs. Mill River 2pm
  • High School Homecoming Dance 7-10pm

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You follow her @GLWit

The FWSU Story: BFA Fairfax School Board Approves Building Bond

We are excited to share that after nearly two years of significant work, the Long Range Facilities Committee (LRFPC) has recommended, and the BFA Fairfax School Board has accepted, a building bond not to exceed $26.4 million. The bond proposal reflects a balance of the immediate needs and goals, while providing options for both the short and long term needs and goals of our school community. 

The LRFPC has completed a comprehensive process of evaluating our space needs, reviewing to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, and revisiting the previous assessments of the building’s mechanical, electrical, architectural, and code and compliance/life safety needs. In addition, we surveyed the community in the fall of 2018 and incorporated the feedback into this proposal. Finally, we have reviewed the previous recommendations for the building and have identified and classified building needs and recommendations into four categories (safety, accessibility, opportunities, and efficiencies). 

In an effort to provide choices, this building bond will have three articles for the community to consider and vote on:  

ARTICLE I 

Shall general obligation bonds of the Fairfax Town School District in an amount not to exceed $16,000,000 subject to reduction from the application of available state and federal grants-in- aid be issued for the purpose of financing the final design, permitting, site work and the construction of renovations, capital improvements and additions to Bellows Free Academy Fairfax Elementary, Middle and High School together with related site work and eligible project expenses. The renovations shall include adding four (4) classrooms to the elementary school, redesigning the entrances for all three schools and the library, reorganizing the Middle School (science labs, art and maker space, a hallway to the playground, improved space for S.T.E.A.M [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math] programs) , relocating the nurse’s station for grades 5-12, consolidating administrative offices, adding sprinkler systems where required, improving lighting and providing storage for athletic uniforms, the estimated cost of such improvements being $16,000,000. 

ARTICLE II 

In the event Article 1 is approved and only in the event Article 1 is approved, shall general obligation bonds of the Fairfax Town School District in an amount not to exceed $3,800,000, subject to reduction from the application of available state and federal grants- in-aid, be issued for the purpose of financing the final design, permitting, site work and the construction of renovations, capital improvements and additions to Bellows Free Academy Fairfax Elementary, Middle and High School together with related site work and eligible project expenses and shall include: a new Middle School Gym with separate Community access, which allows for large music space and additional practice and game space; High School Science labs; new art space; and World Language classrooms, the estimated cost of such improvements being $3,800,000. 

ARTICLE III 

In the event Article 1 is approved, and only in the event Article 1 is approved, shall general obligation bonds of the Fairfax Town School District in an amount not to exceed $6,600,000, subject to reduction from the application of available federal and state grants-in-aid, be issued for the purpose of financing the final design, permitting, site work and the construction of renovations, capital improvements and additions to Bellows Free Academy Fairfax Elementary, Middle and High School together with related site work and eligible project expenses. and shall include: a new High School Auditorium, utilizing the present stage with separate Community access; new spaces for the Band and Chorus; High School Science labs; and World Language classrooms, the estimated cost of such improvements being $6,600,000.

So how will this impact your taxes? Below is a chart that estimates the tax impact on home values based on a 20-year bond at a 2.37% interest rate. Your tax increase will be based on the number of articles that pass. For example, if all three articles pass and if you own a $250,000 home, then you will pay an estimated additional $509 per year. 

There will be four informational sessions for community members to learn more about this bond proposal. The meetings will occur on the following dates:

  • October 10, 2019 6:30 pm  (Middle School Gym)
  • October 26, 2019 10:00 am (Middle School Gym)
  • November 13, 2019 6:30 pm (Middle School Gym)
  • December 02, 2019 Special School Board Meeting 6:30 pm (Multi-Purpose Room)

The bond vote will occur on Thursday, December 05 in the Middle School Gym. There will also be absentee ballots available in the Town Clerk’s Office starting Friday, November 15. We encourage you to participate in the informational meetings and to learn about the details of this exciting opportunity for our community. 

Please feel free to contact Justin Brown (jbrown@fwsu.org), John Tague (jtague@fwsu.org), or Thomas Walsh (twalsh@fwsu.org) if you have any questions. We look forward to engaging our stakeholders in a process that serves our students, staff, and community for the next several decades.

Thomas Walsh is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount

Be sure to follow FWSU on Facebook and #FWSU on Twitter to see more exciting things happening in our schools!

The FWSU Story: New School Year, New Beginnings, New Teachers in FWSU

A new school year is full of excitement for all returning educators, and in FWSU the first day of school is the best day of the year. But teachers who are brand new to FWSU get a 2-day preview of what FWSU is all about, along with lunch and tour of their home school well before that first day. When you are starting a new job, it’s a pretty great way to get off to a positive start.

We are so fortunate that FWSU attracts so many skilled and talented educators. So it is important that they have a chance to find out just how special our schools are, and that they have chosen well. Our FWSU schools and our educators share high expectations for teaching and learning, and along with that, we are collectively inspired by “a belief in what is possible.”

After some great food, gift bags, and welcome greetings from administrators from the Central Office and across the district, the learning begins. Some of the critical foundations they get a chance to learn about and experience during the 2-day orientation are systems-approaches to PBIS, MTSS, Technology Integration, Equity, All Learners Universal Frameworks, and creating Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms. In addition, they get to know a bit about our 3 schools and the pride that we share in being part of Franklin West Supervisory Union.  

The culmination of this mid-August orientation is a trip to their home schools that includes lunch, time with their principals, mentors, and mentor coordinators, and a Welcome Home tour of the school. 

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Digital Learning For All

Thanks to the hard work of the IT staff under the direction of Jeff Smith, FWSU IT Manager, teachers at FWSU started the this school year with new MacBooks and iPads.

To get started with the new MacBooks, teachers participated in a day long inservice focusing on how they can integrate the digital resources at FWSU to impact learning for students.

We kicked off the day with Greg Kulowiec from Edtech sharing how staff can use Creativity, Design and Opportunity to inspire learning. After a motivating start with Greg, teachers then were able to explore and select different learning opportunities that best met their needs.

At the end of the day, staff were then able to meet with building administrators to plan next steps of how digital learning can be used for all students. Although inservice has concluded, this was just the first step of many as teachers move forward to innovating learning for all.

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist
Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Coach at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech.

THE FWSU Story: BFA Students Address Parking Situation, with Creative Results

At the end of the last school year, high school students participated in mini-mester courses. The courses were designed to give students the opportunity to explore an area of interest as the year ended. Courses explored areas including hiking, biking, swimming, sports, Chinese, dance, and how to “adult”.

Students who were enrolled in “Think Tank” spent the class trying to solve problems to make BFA a better place. One of the main areas of concern was the parking lot. Students expressed frustration with the number of spaces available, people parking in their reserved spots (students pay for a designated space in the main parking lot), and the loss of parking spaces in the winter due to the snowbanks. 

Several students in the class decided to try to fix the parking situation and worked with Amy Plog in the main office. They developed new guidelines for parking and determined that some spaces would be open on a first come first served basis. The students also proposed the idea of allowing members of the senior class to personalize their parking space. 

One student, Natalie B. took the mantle to make this idea a reality. She found other schools that have tried this and researched their policies and procedures. Through the summer, Natalie worked with administrators to create an information packet to send to seniors with the guidelines and expectations for personalizing their space. 

On a Thursday night two weeks before school started, the seniors (and their families) gathered in the parking lot to begin the process of transforming their spaces. They brought paint, rollers, tape and an approved design with them. They quickly learned that they needed more paint than they were told by the hardware store as they started their designs. A quart of paint doesn’t go very far on asphalt!

Students worked through the weekend, when their schedule and the weather allowed, and created impressive final products. It is clear that the students took great pride in their work.

This project was a great example of student voice and initiative coming together to solve a problem and allowed students to express their creativity and artistic abilities. Yes, we still have some parking problems, but thanks to our students, our seniors’ parking spaces are clearly reserved (and fun to look at!).

John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252

The FWSU Story: Kids Are Back!

Yesterday was the first day for students across the FWSU schools (BFA – Fairfax, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, and Fletcher Elementary School) and it was an exciting day! Having the hallways full of happy students looking toward their next adventures has always been a special time of the school year. Thank you to all the families for sending us your children, to the educators for working so tirelessly for all kids, and to the students for sharing your enthusiasm and aspirations with us. It’s going to be an awesome year!

I joined the FWSU community in July as Interim Superintendent, and from the first day I could recognize the specialness of organization. FWSU’s Action Plan highlights the commitment of “High Performance and Equity in a Digital Learning Culture” and having conversations with many educators over the summer reinforce the commitment to this work. I saw the welcoming of new educators through a commitment on understanding the impact of trauma on our children and families, the opening of in-service focused on understanding the impacts of equity, and, while visiting schools on the first day, seeing in action the welcoming and caring educators working with children.

There really is A belief in what is possible.

The images above really stuck out in my travels around the FWSU community. The messages were written on the sidewalk of the GEMS entrance and really hit home the purpose of our work – to support students in developing compassion and knowledge as citizens. As parents of three children (two in elementary school and one in college) my wife and I are proud to be Vermont educators, and I am looking forward to being part of the FWSU!

BFA HS students and teachers hit the gym as well.

Dr. Suess once stated, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” As the children and staff return to the schools remember to take time to celebrate all the successes – big or small. Enjoy the school year!

Donald Van Nostrand is the Interim Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @dsvannostrand.

Be sure to follow #FWSUTwitterChallenge for the FWSU 20-Day Twitter Challenge and #FWSU all year to see more exciting things happening in our schools!

The FWSU Story: BFA HS Students Visit VT Supreme Court and Hold Online Q&A with Sen. Leahy

Students in BFA’s AP US Government and Politics class recently interacted with powerful figures in government on the state and national level.  It is easy to be cynical about politics today with decisions being made by people far away and with little connection to the people. However, a pair of experiences for students in AP Government and Politics made students realize the difficulty and personal nature of decision making in politics.

On February 19, students traveled with peers from Milton High School to Montpelier to listen to Oral Arguments in the Vermont Supreme Court.  Arguments included cases concerning police treatment of witnesses, the power of Vermont’s Open Meeting Laws, and whether convicted felons can receive parole and rehabilitation treatment in Vermont.  Students were surprised at how interactive the justices were the lawyers. There were times when the justices would rapidly ask questions of the lawyers in order to get to the constitutional issues at hand.  After hearing the arguments, all five Vermont Supreme Court Justices came out of their chambers and answered questions from students. Questions ranged from their career path to the Supreme Court, why they asked certain questions during arguments, the importance of being above political parties and ideology and interpreting law, and understanding the judicial process of the lower courts.  The clear takeaways from the day with the justices was the deep respect for law the justices had, how their decision-making process will effect Vermonters for years to come, and according to one student, how very hard they work for the betterment of the state.

Three weeks later, on March 13, students were able to talk to Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in an online chat.  In the 45 minute Q and A with Vermont’s longest serving Senator, Leahy answered a variety of student questions ranging from his time as a district attorney in Chittenden County, his first Senate Campaign, how to make college more affordable, his views on digital privacy, and his appearance in multiple Batman films.  An important moment for many students was Leahy’s discussion of passage of the 1992 Leahy Landmine Elimination Act.  Leahy discussed his visit to Vietnam to talk to war veterans and civilians affected by landmines. He recalled how he assisted a legless Vietnamese man into a wheelchair that was purchased with funds that came from his legislation.  It was clear, even 27 years after his trip, that he was still deeply impacted from his experience and passage of his legislation.

At the end of the discussion, students noted how personable Senator Leahy was.  He thoughtfully and articulately answered all the students questions; it was not just a stump speech or a prepared list of talking points.  “It made me proud to have him represent us in DC,” said one student. “Conversations like this make me want to be involved in the political process,” said another.

Joe Emery is a Social Studies Teacher at BFA Fairfax High School.