Early Education and the Importance of Play


I love the opportunities I get to spend time in our Pre-Kindergarten classrooms. The classrooms are full of laughter, movement, and energy. Our students are curious, energetic, and excited about learning. A significant component of their day centers around learning through play. 

Play is the foundation of learning for all children. We believe that play is an essential component of our children’s experience at our school. In our Pre-Kindergarten program our staff promote play and social interactions each day. According to National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), research indicates:

  1. Young children learn through play. 
  2. Play helps children learn problem solving skills.
  3. Play helps reduce stress and helps children work through complex experiences.
  4. Play helps children focus and learn executive functioning skills. 

I recently asked Ms. Caryn Zambrano, our new Pre-Kindergarten teacher, to share how our classrooms use play to facilitate learning and gain important skills.  She was generous to share the following:

How and why do children learn through play?  

When children play, they are learning and making sense of the world around them.  Before young children have words, they use their senses to learn. They taste, touch, smell, look at, and listen to everything in their world. This exploration helps young children understand how things work. If you have ever seen a little baby pick up a phone and say hello, they are mimicking what they may see a parent do. This is an early stage of play, where children act out familiar scenarios. As play progresses, children will start to create their own little play scenes.  They will switch from solitary or parallel play to cooperative play with their peers. You will start to see real scenes put into place, and more intentional play.

For example, instead of building a small tower (where a child may build it to knock it down over and over), you may see two children working cooperatively (social/emotional skills) to build a castle. During this play, you will see them planning (executive functioning skills) and negotiating what parts to include in the castle (social problem solving). You may also see some exploration about cause and effect, and learning about spatial awareness. Kids will often talk and plan about how high to build the structure, and often enjoy counting to see whose tower is taller (measurement and counting).

There are so many concepts that children are exploring and learning about for every type of play! 

How do children learn problem solving skills through play?  

Problems arise naturally when children are interacting! We see two main types of problem solving in our preschool programs: general and social. Problem solving typically happens when a child tries or can’t figure out how to do something. This type of critical thinking helps children learn to think outside the box, and helps them to anticipate new ways to do things. In preschool, one of the hardest concepts to learn is how to share. It’s something that we spend the entire year on. When a child wants to play with a toy that is unavailable, there can be a big problem! Preschool children feel everything very strongly, and have a difficult time waiting or negotiating when there is a problem. Our role as teachers is to pre-teach these skills, as well as help children take part in these challenging conversations.  

Play reduces stress and helps children cope with complex experiences: 

When you see children play, it is pretty evident that they are enjoying themselves. They will be laughing, pretending to be something, or may be concentrating and thinking about what they are doing. Play is a natural way for children to act out what they see and know. When children have an adverse experience, they figure it out during play. That is why you may see a child at the dollhouse who announces that the parents are getting divorced. They are trying to figure out what it means, and how it all works. Acting these types of events out in play is perfectly natural, and can be used as a healing experience.  

How does play help children focus and use executive functioning skills?

When a young child starts preschool, they often have a very short attention span. This is developmentally appropriate! As children gain a sense of the world around them, they start learning to attend to play for longer periods of time. Think of that example with the baby answering the phone. The baby might stay engaged for a few minutes, until they have exhausted what they know about talking on the phone.

As children get older, their play starts changing into intentional play scenes. So their play and their ability to focus changes to accommodate their new skills. Instead of play lasting a few minutes, children will play for longer periods of time. At our preschool, we change our classroom periodically to accommodate new play scenes. This year, we have had a pizza kitchen, a store, a bakery, and a gingerbread house in our dramatic play area. The kids were able to create rich scenes that lasted all of playtime. It is such an amazing transition to see!  

Play is such a natural way for children to gain knowledge about the world around them. If you would like to learn more, please check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) website. You can find tons of free resources and articles about play. Please take a moment to check out this cartoon that is in the back of the Vermont Early Learning Standards created by the Vermont Department of Education. It does a great job illustrating what children are learning in a preschool classroom.  

Click the photo to see the image enlarged.

GEMS Winterfest 2021


This winter the Georgia Elementary School students have been participating in a four week long Winterfest where they were challenged to get involved in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.  As they accomplished each challenge their classroom would earn points and the goal was to accumulate the most points throughout the four weeks.  Challenges centered around active play, problem solving activities, and community service. 

Here is a video of classrooms participating in the activities below.

Explore the Outdoors

  • Take a walk on the walking path (2 pts)
  • Borrow snowshoes from Mr. Allard and go outside to explore (3pts)
  • Identify three types of trees on the school property (2pts)
  • Build a working sundial in the snow (3pts)
  • Identify three different animal tracks (2 pts)
  • Take a photo of an animal in the snow (3pts)
  • Sit quietly in the bird sanctuary and observe the birds (1pt)
  • Visit the Buddy Bench (1pt)
  • Practice your favorite yoga pose outside (1pt)
Keeping track of points.

Snow Play

  • Build a snow creature (2pts)
  • Catch a snowflake on your tongue (1pt)
  • Make a snow angel(1pt)
  • Sled down a hill (1pt)
  • Build a snow fort (3pts)
  • Throw snowballs at the disc golf goal.  Can you get it in? (1pt)
  • Write GEMS in the snow with your feet/snowshoes (2pts)
  • Practice writing your sight words or letters in the snow (3pts)


  • Create a Mascot Character profile (It could be a labeled drawing, story, list of characteristics, etc. ) (3pts)
  • Write a poem, song or story about winter (3pts)
  • Make a paper snowflake (1pt)
  • Create your own jigsaw puzzle from a winter picture (2pts)
  • Draw a map of the school (3pts)
  • Create and play a handmade board game (3pts)
  • Create a video of a touchdown dance (3pts)
  • Create your OWN activity (3 pts)
Ask a friend to play a game.
Challenge yourself with a puzzle.

Hunker Down

  • Play a board game  (1pt)
  • Have a read-in (2pts)
  • Virtually visit a zoo, aquarium, museum (1pt)
  • Do yoga or GoNoodle in your classroom (1pt)
  • Show another type of brain break your class does (1pt)
  • Make a puzzle (2pts)
  • Work together as a class to calculate how many points you could earn if you completed everything on the list (3pts)
Visiting a virtual zoo.

Give Back

  • Compost your food waste (1pt)
  • Use recycled materials to create something (2pts.)
  • Write and mail a thank you note to a local first responder or other essential worker (3pts.)
  • Pick up litter you see on the playgrounds (2pt.)
  • Donate to the food shelf or other local charity (3pts.)
  • Write a thank you note to someone in the school.  Think about people who often work behind the scenes (cafeteria, janitors, administration, nurses, etc.) (3pts.)
Thank you letter to a custodian.

As classrooms participated they needed to include a mascot of their choice in all activities while documenting through video or pictures:

  1.  Create or find a mascot with your class.  A mascot can be something your class makes or an item from the classroom. Examples include a Flat Stanley type mascot, a lego character or a mitten.  Be creative and have fun with it.
  2.  Take a picture and/or 30 second video of each activity you complete and include your mascot in the picture.    Keep track of your points 
  3. Make a recording of you introducing the Winter Fest Challenge to your class for an automatic 5 points to kick off the challenge!
Reading and playing math games with a mascot.

Teachers and students were engaged and smiling throughout selected challenges and this opportunity provided classrooms to continue building those relationships with one another that are so critically important.

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @Emery_Gems.

Planning Forward with a Sense of Hope


Through the continuing process of scheduled “Take 20 Meetings,” I am able to hear the thoughts of all employees in the Franklin West Supervisory Union.  I am renewing my sense of hope for brighter days ahead as we near the one year mark of a global pandemic.  It is an absolute pleasure to meet with dedicated employees who care deeply for students who each possess a talent or a gift. 

Lisa Wilkins, a kindergarten teacher at BFA Fairfax shared her “One Word” for the 2020-2021 school year. “Hope,” is the one word that she personally chooses to live by during a year like no other.  When I asked Lisa how the students were doing this year, she stated that her kindergarteners are exactly “where they need to be.”  She credited parents who helped to teach their children last spring when the majority of the country moved to remote learning to close out the 2019-2020 school year. 

Brittany Sweet, who teaches Pre-K at Georgia Elementary School shared that freedom of expression, creative play, and ideal learning spaces exist within the GEMS Pre-K Program. The idea of learning from play within rich Pre-K environments at Georgia Elementary, BFA Fairfax Elementary, and Fletcher Elementary will indeed pay dividends for students as they progress to Georgia Middle School and BFA Fairfax Middle and High School.

Throughout the year I have witnessed the developmental and academic growth of the students in Cathy O’Brien’s kindergarten class at Fletcher Elementary School.  The collaborative teamwork that Cathy, Kathy LeMay, and other educational professionals accomplish together is leading toward exponential growth for students. The structures and creative play within the room play a key role in leading learning forward for all students. 

Recovery Plan

A term that will soon be commonplace across the country is the idea of a “Recovery Plan.” Such plans will strategically evaluate learning that may require remediation due to potential learning loss during this unprecedented pandemic. This planning and strategizing for a recovery plan will focus on the key areas of academic, social, and emotional learning.  As this conversation starts with district administrators, principals, lead coaches, and teacher leaders, I believe the word “hope” is something for consideration.

Interestingly, across the United States over fifty percent of the students have not received in-person learning since last March of 2020. I am grateful that our kindergarten through grade six students are receiving four days a week of in-person learning, and grades seven through twelve students are receiving two days of in-person learning  within our hybrid learning model. 

I am eternally grateful to all of our employees and parents for the steadfast effort to move all students forward with their learning as we journey together toward a hope for better days ahead.

Something to Celebrate

Two BFA Fairfax seniors were recognized by the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association (VSADA) and National Interscholastic Administrators Association (NIAA) as Top Scholar-Athletes. Five male and five female student athletes in Vermont are recognized for being distinguished in scholastic, leadership, and sportsmanship attributes. Congratulations to Abigail Sweet and Jarrett Sweet for being named the top female and male recipients for the State of Vermont.


“When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen.”

—Ernest Hemingway

Enthusiastically Yours,

James Tager is the Superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jrtager

Fletcher Students “Mask-Up” for the Environment


Student artists at Fletcher Elementary School are creating their own unique face masks and supporting the environment at the same time. 

The Mask-Up Art Project encourages students to battle pollution by learning about earth-friendly sustainable transportation and representing some of their favorite ways of getting around by designing a face mask depicting eco-friendly alternatives such as walking, biking, skating, and skiing, that reduce their carbon footprint.

The project is sponsored by Way To Go Vermont, a subsidy of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, who provided the school with free cloth masks to serve as students’ canvases, along with non-toxic fabric pens to support the vibrant artwork.

“In addition to supporting students’ learning about eco-friendly ways to get around, this project made mask-wearing fun for our students and inspired some of our young artists to demonstrate their learning through their art,” third and fourth grade teacher and instructional coach, Denette Locke said.

“It served as a really creative way for our class to discuss protecting Vermont’s beautiful environment.”

The project is accompanied by a school transportation challenge, which encourages students and families to consider a variety of eco-friendly ways to get to and from school and to reduce carbon emissions, and a winter walk and bike challenge that supports active outside activities.

“Asking students to design their own masks gave them a chance to consider how their actions related to transportation can have a significant impact on the environment,” third grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “By helping students think critically about this now, we can positively impact the health of Vermont for years to come.”

“Doing art is so much fun and this art has a cause,” third grader Claire Austin said. “We need to put less pollution into the environment because too much is harmful to people and animals and plants. When I can drive a car, I am going to remember all about this and do my part to help.”

Fourth grader Bryce Wright added, “You just have to be respectful, responsible, safe and caring,” echoing the school’s school-wide rules. “You need to do all of those things outside of school, too, and take care of the environment by making the best choices you can.”

Students will wear their mask at school and throughout the community.

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

Flexible Learning Through VTVLC


Currently over 60 students from FWSU have begun their second semester enrolled as fully remote students through a collaboration with Vermont’s Virtual Learning Cooperative, VTVLC.  These hardworking students and families are diligently working and learning through this new learning environment.

Learn. Virtually. Anywhere.

Students enrolled in VTVLC have a unique flexible learning environment this year. Students engage along with their teacher both with other students as a group as well as individually for all five days of the school week . Learning incorporates both independent learning through online modules as well as guided learning with their teachers virtually. Students along with the support of their families as coaches complete course work assigned weekly versus daily to allow more flexibility. 

FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.

The VTVLC Collaborative School Option was developed this school year to meet the needs of fully remote learning for students during COVID. The VTVLC CSO provides a fully online virtual academy for their local students.  This cooperative learning is a pool of Vermont educators from school districts across the state of Vermont who have committed to educating Vermont students online for the 2020-2021 school year.  FWSU has 4 teachers from our supervisory union diligently providing instruction and support as online virtual instructors including Mandy Alarcon, Sharon Rock, Michelle Sarnowicz, and Harold Vance. 

This program is working as a direct result of the cooperation of all the learning partners doing their part to ensure the best possible program for our students.  This would not be possible without the flexibility of the teachers, students and their families. 

Better when working together….

Co-Written By:
VTVLC online instructors — Mandy Alarcon, Sharon Rock, Michelle Sarnowoicz, and Harold Vance

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

Great Peacemakers


Prologue: I recently attended a Zoom session featuring the Peacemaker Projects of grade 7 students at BFA Fairfax. This joint effort between Emily Wills and Jennifer Skerrett featured an authentic humanities approach to what it means to be a peacemaker. The intersection of transferable skills, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and thematic humanities is a hallmark of FWSU’s commitment to innovative, personalized learning opportunities that integrate a global perspective.

Linda Keating, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union.

The Great Peacemakers

7th graders at BFA Fairfax recently completed their cross-curricular unit on Transferable Skills and The Global Goals for Sustainable Development.  Jenn Skerrett (social studies), Emily Wills (English language arts), and Ethan Wise (Teacher Apprenticeship Program intern) worked together to support students’ exploration of these two important areas of learning.  

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals to help make the world a better place.  By 2030, the Goals hope to end poverty, fight inequality and address the urgency of climate change.

Meanwhile, in 2016 the Vermont Agency of Education put forth five overarching Transferable Skills to cut across content areas and complement the new proficiency-based graduation requirements.  The Skills are:  clear and effective communication, creative and practical problem solving, informed and integrative thinking, responsible and involved citizenship, and self-direction.

Over approximately 10 in-person class days, the 7th graders read the book Great Peacemakers by Heather Chase and Ken Beller.  This nonfiction text covers 20 people who have all taken different pathways to peace:  choosing nonviolence, valuing all life, honoring diversity, caring for the planet, or living peace.  

Students then selected one peacemaker to study more in-depth, and created a presentation to connect that peacemaker to the Transferable Skills and The Global Goals.  Then, they extended their thinking outward to link their peacemaker’s mission to an ongoing cause today.

In the past, Mrs. Skerrett and Mrs. Wills have combined their classes for this project and done presentations in a mixed group.  This year, COVID-19 protocols forced them to be creative.  While keeping their pods safe and separate, the teachers used Zoom to allow students in different classrooms to watch each other present and see each others’ slideshows.  This also made it possible for FWSU Curriculum Director Linda Keating to join the audience for some of the speeches.

7th grader Emma Foster said of the project, “it gave me a chance to learn about someone I had no idea existed.  I found it fun to speak in front of people about things I learned.  It let me put two concepts together, and connect Transferable Skills and Global Goals to Oscar Arias.  I really liked it.” 

Co-Written By:

Emily Wills, Grade 7 Language Arts Teacher at BFA Fairfax


Jennifer Skerrett, Grade 7 Social Studies Teacher at BFA Fairfax

Enjoy the break and Take Care of Yourself and Your Family!


In more usual times, February break is a time for escape and recharging. For some, it is a time to get out on the ice and fish, go for a ride on the snow machine, or travel someplace warm.  This year, as we all know far too well at this point, is different. With the restrictions that the pandemic has imposed on us around who we can and cannot see, and where we can (and more often) cannot go, many of our usual routines are going to be different this February break.

However, as we head into the upcoming week, many of us have more time on our hands than usual; and with that I offer some resources and reminders about taking care of yourselves and your families. COVID fatigue is a real thing and it is too easy to get frustrated and “forget” the guidelines that we all have been working so hard to follow when our routines are upended (even by a vacation).

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had shared with Dr. Joelle Van Lent, PsyD in December about supporting our young people during these hard and often unpredictable times.  We divided this conversation into two 10 minute chunks. The first is about routines and supporting remote learning.  The second is about supporting our young people with worry and uncertainty about our situation. 

On February 15, 2021 we hosted an open workshop with Dr. Gillian Boudreau focused on helping your child manage anxiety. While we are unable to provide a recording of this session, we are happy to share several resources from this workshop.  We also highly recommend Dan Siegel’s and Tina Bryerson’s book: “The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired.”

Also, I would be remiss if I did not include our fabulous BFA Nurses’ Newsletter.  Michelle, Amy and Nicole are constantly keeping us updated and informed on the latest news.  Their professionalism, tireless dedication to keeping our students and all of our staff safe (at all hours and through too many weekends to count) are legion. 

Nurse Amy Black caught mid-errand between buildings.
Nurse Michelle Sheehan supporting our elementary students and staff.
Nurse Nicole Ducharme keeping us informed about health updates and supporting our students.

“I would like to remind everyone to keep up all the good work they are doing: hand-washing, keeping distance, wearing their masks. We have noted that this helps keep us safe from Covid but also has kept the normal winter illnesses down. Mask on faces, six foot spaces, uncrowded spaces!”

—Nurse Amy Black

Please be safe during this break, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. As always remember to wear your masks, keep your distance, wash your hands, and just hunker down and find joy in what we do have in our immediate surroundings.  We just need to hang on a little longer so that we can all come out of this together. 

Be well, take care and enjoy the February respite.

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.

BFA FAIRFAX Seniors Recognized as VSADA and NIAAA Top Scholar-Athletes


Each year the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association (VSADA), in coordination with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), awards ten scholarships to five male and five female senior student-athletes in Vermont. These scholarships “recognize the distinguished scholastic, leadership and sportsmanship attributes of high school student-athletes, and the importance of high school athletics in each student’s life” (NIAAA, 2021).

We are extremely proud to announce that BFA Fairfax Seniors Abigail Sweet and Jarrett Sweet have not only been selected as two of this year’s NIAAA and VSADA scholarship winners, but have also been named the top male and female recipients for the State of Vermont. 

They are the first students at BFA Fairfax to receive this top designation. 

Abigail and Jarrett’s applications will be forwarded to a regional selection committee where they will be evaluated among the state winners from the Northeast region, and ultimately among the top recipients from each of the 50 states to determine the 2021 National winners.  

In addition to their academic accolades and athletic talents, the scholarship committee took note of the extraordinary commitment to student leadership organizations and service initiatives demonstrated by both Jarrett and Abigail.   

As part of the application process, both Abigail and Jarrett wrote essays on the impact of high school athletics on their lives.  

“High School athletics has given me a platform to find the greatest qualities in myself that I want to see projected into the world.”  –Abigail Sweet

“The impact that sports have had on my life is irreversible.”  –Jarrett Sweet

BFA Fairfax is extremely proud of Abigail and Jarrett, and we congratulate them on this well-deserved award and honor.  We will all be rooting for them in the next stage of the NIAAA Student-Athlete Scholarship process! 

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

GEMS Student Works to Launch New School Weather Station


This year GEMS  middle school students are getting more outdoor recess.  Each grade level is scheduled for a full 30 minutes of fresh air, movement, and social interaction. It is great to get outside, but it is winter, and this is Vermont. It gets cold and windy out there. Some days the weather just doesn’t cooperate and students need to have their recess indoors. To make this determination GEMS follows guidelines provided by the Vermont Principals Association for outdoor activities. When the “feels like” temperature or wind chill falls below zero degrees fahrenheit, it is no longer considered safe for outdoor activities. 

Until recently a windchill temperature reading was only available as reported online or on other media based on temperature readings  from other  locations.  Our school and playgrounds sit on a windy hillside and conditions may change drastically hour by hour.  For this reason it seemed like collecting our own weather data was long overdue. 

Middle School Principal Julie Conrad  initiated the discussion about involving students and the GEMS Innovation Lab in the project and soon a plan began to unfold. The school purchased an Acurite weather station and recruited 8th grade student Logan Grimm to collaborate with the Information Technology ( IT) and Maintenance Departments to get it up and running. 

Logan worked with John Picanza from the IT department to unbox, assemble the unit and connect it to the internet.  The station was then tested on a temporary basis for a full week. Finally, having proven reliability, GEMS Maintenance Staff Pete Metcalf installed a pole for permanently mounting the weather station by the Middle School playground.  After the pole was installed Mr. Clow, technology integrationist, then performed the installation. Throughout the process students and teachers collected video and pictures. Logan then used the media to create a GEMS TV feature video to showcase the entire project. 

In a very short time it has become routine for members of the school community to check the weather station data posted on the GEMS website! 

Logan’s Reflection on the weather station project:

The reason I wanted to work on this project is because I thought it would be a fun project and it was. 

I also wanted to work on this project because I like to take apart electronics at home and fix them and clean them up.  

I would say the most challenging part of the weather station project was connecting it to the internet. The reason is it seemed like every time it was trying to connect it failed the test. The way we solved the internet problem is we kept trying. At one point we glitched the app and got an error code. When we exited the error screen it automatically connected to the internet. 

I think it would be very helpful for families to have GEMS weather open at home so kids know, before they come to school, what the weather is at the school and wear the right gear. It is good to know the real temperature at school because below zero is too cold for recess. It could be warmer or colder at another weather station. 

I wanted to make a video of the process because I thought it would be a fun little video to put on GEMS TV to share with others. I have worked on GEMS TV for 2 years and  enjoy my innovation lab classes.  

Link to GEMS Weather Station Data 

Link to Logan’s Video

It’s Budget Season


One of the things I appreciate most about living in Vermont is the changing of the seasons. I’m referring to the changes that occur in our landscape and lifestyles as we transition from winter to spring to summer to fall and back again. There’s an old joke that says that “Vermont has three seasons-winter, mud season, and the Fourth of July!”

As a school administrator, I want to shed light on an additional season that we experience every year – budget season!

Budget season typically begins in late October, but sometimes, during challenging financial times, it can begin shortly after students return to school in late August. Although the next school year is still months away, the budget needs to be finalized before the end of January, so administrators have to begin to think about what they might need or want for the next school year shortly after the current year starts.  

The process begins with a look at the cost of continuing all of our current programs and services. Increases in wages, insurance, maintenance and energy costs as well as decreased costs due to retirements, projects, or other efficiencies are taken into account as we develop our first draft of the budget. As a result of this work, we are able to calculate the percentage increase in spending needed to open school during the following year. While the dollar amount and percentage of increased spending are important, the calculation that most impacts families is the tax rate. The tax rate is calculated using the overall expenses, the number of “equalized” pupils, the yield rate and the common level of appraisal (CLA).  These numbers are determined by the State of Vermont and are released and adjusted throughout the budget process. In our early calculations, we use last year’s figures or our best estimates to arrive at a potential tax rate which shows the potential impact on homeowners in our town. 

This “level services” budget is shared with the School Board during a November meeting. The board looks at the information presented and considers the needs of the students and the potential burden on the taxpayer. Depending on the information, they will ask the administration to make recommendations for additional needs or for suggestions to reduce the overall expense for discussion at the next month’s board meeting. 

The administration works to meet the requests of the board over the next month. At the same time, the State releases information that makes the tax implication more clear. The “equalized pupil” rate is based on the number of students in our school. Students of different ages are weighted differently based on a formula developed by the state. We calculate our per pupil rate by dividing our expenses by the number of equalized pupils. The cost per equalized pupil and the percent change from the previous year are the numbers that appear on the ballot when our citizens vote on our annual budget. In recent years, BFA has seen a steady increase in the number of students and thus, an increase in equalized pupils.

The tax rate is determined using the cost per pupil and the yield rate. The yield rate is set by the state and basically represents the value of an educational dollar at a consistent rate throughout the state. The greater the yield rate, the lower the tax rate. Throughout this year’s budget cycle, the rate changed several times, but, fortunately, always to a higher amount. 

The Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) is a calculation meant to provide a consistent home valuation across the state and adjust the tax rate. If the tax value determined by the town’s listers is aligned with the real estate value of the property, the CLA is 100% and the town’s tax rate is unchanged. If there is a disparity between listed value and real estate value, the percentage decreases, which increases the tax rate. This year, the CLA in Fairfax is 85.93% which caused an upward adjustment in our tax rate.

Given all of that background information, what does our BFA budget look like this year?

We were able to create a level services budget for the FY22 school year. The school board and administration are confident that our present level of services and programs will support the needs of our students.

The Town Meeting ballot will ask:

Shall the voters of said school district approve the school board to expend $14,636,092 which is the amount the school board has determined to be necessary for the ensuing fiscal year?  It is estimated that this proposed budget, if approved, will result in education spending of $14,589.86 per equalized pupil.

This projected spending per equalized pupil is 2.29% higher than spending for the current year.

If approved, the tax implications for Fairfax homeowners will be approximately (prior to income sensitivity property tax adjustments):

Budget season wraps up with voting on Town Meeting Day, March 2, 2021. You can vote in-person (at BFA Fairfax from 7am-7pm) or request a mail in ballot from the Town Clerk’s office (call 849-6111). I hope that this information is helpful. Please reach out to any administrator or School Board member with your questions.

Once budget season is over, mud season can’t be far behind!

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