THE FWSU STORY: The Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is Looking For Your Feedback

The Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFPC) consisting of community members, school board representatives, administrators, staff members, and parents continue the process of developing recommendations to address the future needs of our school building.

LFCPC Blog 1

The charge of this committee is to determine the facility requirements that will support current and future educational, safety and physical needs of our students, staff, and community for the next twenty-five years.

LFCPC Blog 5

At the same time, remaining aware of the fiscal constraints of our budget and community.

LFCPC Blog 2

The committee developed a list of improvement projects that have been identified through input from our community, school personnel, and building assessments.

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We are asking for community members to rate each project in terms of how important that item is for you in an overall building plan. The projects have been separated into four different categories: (1) Safety, (2) Efficiencies, (3) Accessibility and (4) Opportunity.

LFCPC Blog 4

Please complete this Building Improvement Questionnaire for the BFA Fairfax School to provide input to the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee by clicking on this link below:

Or you can access the survey using this QR Code:


There will also be paper copies of the questionnaire and drop boxes located at the Fairfax Green Senior Housing, the BFA Fairfax Library, the Post Office, and the Fairfax Town Office.

Please feel free to contact Tom Walsh or John Tague if you have any questions or concerns at and/or  We look forward to continuing to engage our community in a process that serves our students for the next several decades.


THE FWSU STORY: Fire Safety Day Sparks Life-Saving Learning in Fletcher

To celebrate Fire Safety Month in October, the Fletcher Elementary School welcomed a special visit from the Cambridge Fire Department.

Cambridge Firefighter Elizabeth Rowe high-fives Elementary Preschooler during fire safety exercise

Cambridge Fire Department firefighter Elizabeth Rowe gives a high-five to Fletcher Elementary School preschooler Malachi O’Reilly during a fire safety presentation earlier this month.

Three firefighters taught a series of 45-minute lessons on fire safety to each of Fletcher’s preschool through sixth-grade classes. The teaching included a review of the gear and equipment used by firefighters, strategies for staying safe in the event of a fire, and a tour of a real-life fire-rescue truck.

One of the department’s newest members, Rollie the robotic fire truck, was also a highlight. Rollie has the ability to move around, has flashing red lights, and can carry on a conversation with students via remote control. Behind the scenes, the voice of Rollie typically belongs to Firefighter Kristy Wyckoff, who answered students’ questions and posed thought-provoking scenarios that helped students plan for potential fire emergencies at home.

Fletcher Elementary students explore a Fire Rescue Truck during Fire Safety Month

Students from the Fletcher Elementary School explore a rescue truck from the Cambridge Fire Department during a lesson on Fire Safety on Oct. 5. This month is Fire Safety Month nationwide.

“I learned that firefighters use their air tanks to breath in clean air instead of smoke,” third-grader Stephen Duchaine said. “Their gear is used to protect themselves. It’s important that they come to school because they can teach us how to be safe.”

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 1,500 home fires in the US every day, causing 6,500 deaths and 280,000 injuries annually. During the lifetime of an average home, chances are two to one that there will be an accidental fire.

Wyckoff and her fellow firefighters, Dave Fay and Elizabeth Rowe, encouraged students to install and maintain smoke detectors and to have a reunification plan outside the home in the event of a fire. While donning her gear, Rowe and her colleagues also reassured students that firefighters are there to help, and not to be afraid of all of the equipment.

Students at Fletcher Elementary practice fire safety

Cambridge Fire Department firefighter Elizabeth Rowe teaches Fletcher Elementary School students how to stop, drop and roll during a lesson about fire safety.

“Our goal is to make learning about fire prevention fun and enjoyable for all involved. Safety is our number one priority, Wyckoff said.

“We had to practice our stop drop and roll,” first-grader Emily Savage said. “And we had to cover our faces to protect ourselves. You can crawl if there is a fire. You should stay low because the smoke rises up. You have to know what to do when you have a fire in your house.”

On average, eight out of ten fire-related deaths are the result of smoke inhalation, the NFPA report cites.

“I learned how firefighters put out fire, fourth-grader Cody Savage said. “Taking away the oxygen is one way and using water is another way. The equipment is super heavy. I learned to not hide anywhere and try to get out and not to be scared of the firefighters. There is a helping person under all of the equipment.”

According to a 2017 report authored by the Vermont State Fire Marshall, of the 40,000 emergencies to which firefighters responded that year, “residential properties account for the majority of structure fires and civilian fatalities.”  The report also states that Vermont has historically had a higher than average fire fatality rate per capita. Nationwide, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 25 percent of all structure fires are in residential construction and account for 83 percent of fire deaths and 77 percent of injuries.

“The more students practice safety routines, the more it will become second nature in the event of an actual emergency,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “We are fortunate that these volunteers give up their time every year to support the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

Good Health and Well-Being

Chris and Jackson

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

THE FWSU STORY: What’s Happening in GEMS Preschool

It has been an exciting month of learning in the Preschool at GEMS! This year we currently have 88 preschoolers in our program who are placed in six preschool classes. Here is a look behind the scenes into the classrooms where our children learn and play.


Miss Sweet’s PM Class


Mrs. Howrigan’s PM Class


Mr. Anthony’s Afternoon Class


Mr. Anthony’s Morning Class


Mrs. Howrigan’s Morning Class


Miss Sweet’s Morning Class


Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Visit Summer Cultural Exchange Partners in China

At this moment, eight BFA Fairfax students and two teachers, Sara Villeneuve and Emily Nieckarz are exploring China as part of a cultural exchange in cooperation with SPIRAL International.

BFA Fairfax students in China

BFA Fairfax has worked with SPIRAL for many years through our Summer Exchange Program.


Typically, Chinese students spend two weeks in the summer living with Fairfax families and experiencing the culture of Vermont.


Our students left Vermont on Friday morning and arrived in Shanghai for a brief stop en route to Chongqing. They visited schools and explored the city during their time in the city.


Their next stop was Chengdu where they visited more schools and got to see pandas!


Tonight, they are in their final stop, the city of Guangzhou. They are sharing pictures through social media throughout the trip.


For this blog post, we are sticking to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” and anticipating a future blog post from the students describing their trip in great details.


Teacher Emily Nieckarz reported that “students are doing amazing, jumping in to participate and in total awe of the different culture, food, and traffic!”


We can hardly wait to hear about their experience and are extremely proud of our BFA ambassadors!

Global Goal 17: Partnership for the Goals #teachSDGs



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

THE #FWSU STORY: Partnership Promotes Good Health and Community for Fletcher Students

A partnership between the Vermont Department of Health, the Healthy Roots Collaborative, and Fletcher Elementary School is promoting healthy lifestyles and social consciousness for Fletcher’s third graders and their families and is benefitting local food shelves at the same time.

Fletcher Students harvest at the West Farm in Jeffersonville

Last spring, the three organizations began planning ways that students could explore key questions about sustainable farming and food production, nutrition, and strategies for helping food-insecure members of the community.

Students bringing in the harvest at West Farm in Jeffersonville, VT

In late September, students visited the Jeffersonville-based West Farm, a 10-acre organic producer of wholesale herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Among the hospitals, schools, restaurants, stores and a local farmer-owned cooperative served by the farm, produce is also sold to The Abbey Group, which provides the foodservice program at Fletcher Elementary.

The purpose of the trip, according to Koi Boynton, co-coordinator and manager of the farm to school and gleaning programs for the Healthy Roots Collaborative, was to have students see farming life first hand and to gain an understanding of how the food they eat is being produced.

Students bringing in the harvest at West Farm in Jeffersonville, VT

Additionally, Boynton said that students who meet food producers and help to harvest the food themselves are more likely to try the food once it reaches their table.

Fletcher Elementary students pose with the UN Global Goals for Sustainability at the West Farm in Jeffersonville, VT

“We wanted students to marvel at the beauty and the bounty of farms like the West Farm, but also to get a glimpse of the hard work it takes. In this case, the West Farm is a farm that sells produce to The Abbey Group so the kids will see it in the school cafeteria and maybe tell their classmates, ‘we visited that farm and it was so great. Try the cabbage,’” Boynton said.

A Fletcher Elementary students poses with a pumpkin as she offers a reminder of UN Global Goal 12 "Responsible Consumption and Production"

Founded in 2014, the Healthy Roots Collaborative aims to make connections between agriculture and health. The group works to address food access, nutrition education and agriculture development through education and services for both producers and consumers.

A student harvests squash with her parent as part of a cooking class at Fletcher Elementary School

Leading up to the trip, students participated in discussions about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 goals created by global leaders to make the world a better place by the year 2030. Topics range from ending poverty and hunger to good health and environmental responsibility.

Parents and Students at Fletcher Elementary display the Global Goals

“Before we went to the farm our students held focused conversations about several of the Global Goals,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “ Even though the trip was local, we wanted the students to understand that their learning and problem-solving contributes to a much larger solution in the state, country, and world.”

A Fletcher Elementary student poses with her harvested cabbage and UN SDG #2 Zero Hunger

Students’ discussions emphasized goals related to life on land, responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, good health and well-being, and eliminating hunger. Students took posters of the goals with them to the farm to promote continued conversation on-site.

Fletcher Elementary student processes cabbage as part of a cooking class

“Some of our students were already aware of the issues surrounding these goals,” Godin said, “and others were not. Part of supporting students in being innovative problem-solvers is to help them both identify an issue and thoroughly understand it before they set out to create a solution.”

“Farm to school is a major component of our work because we know that we need to educate the consumers of tomorrow to care about how their food is produced and where it comes from,” Boynton said. “We also know that kids can have a great impact on their families as well. We have heard the story over and over again that after a school taste test, kids will be in the grocery store and ask their parents to get that kale or cabbage.”

At the farm, students harvested a variety of vegetables. Much of the cabbage and most of the squash harvested by students was donated to Northwest Family Foods, a food shelf program serving Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, as well as Martha’s Kitchen, a St. Albans-based soup kitchen that provides daily meals to those in need. The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi Food Shelf also benefited from the harvest.

A student cooks in the kitchen at Fletcher Elementary School

Food that was not donated was used as part of an evening cooking class held at the school and taught by Rachel Huff, farm to school coordinator for the Healthy Roots Collaborative, and Rachel Gregory, a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with the Vermont Department of Health. While the duo teaches a variety of cooking classes, Fletcher’s was the first to bring both parents and students together to share in the experience.

“Students need to be guided and supported as they learn to try new foods and feel comfortable making healthy food choices,” Huff said. “Learning to eat well and prepare healthy food that contributes to a sustainable food system requires extra educational effort that is not written into our school curricula nor our health care protocol. Healthy Roots strives to fill in some of that gap.”

Students serve their harvested vegetables prepared in the Fletcher Elementary School kitchen

Students and their families cooked six recipes using produce harvested from West Farm, three using cabbage and three using squash, and then ate family style, sampling the dishes they had produced and reviewing nutritional information. Participants also engaged in several activities around food and nutrition.

“Our students were able to see multiple, very different ways to prepare the same produce,” Godin said. “They learned that if you don’t care for a vegetable cooked one way, there are lots of alternatives that you might enjoy. They also learned that some recipes include cooking and some do not, as well as how to use a variety of kitchen tools and procedures. These are life skills.”

Harvesting squash for the SDGs!

“There is a tremendous amount of marketing and advertising out in the world encouraging consumers to buy highly processed, packaged, and not always very healthy food. Connecting students, their teacher, and families to local farmers contribute to our educational effort,” Huff said. “The Healthy Roots Collaborative finds its greatest successes in the partnerships we create between eaters and growers in our region. Establishing these links on every level we can find furthers our mission to envision a healthy Northwest Vermont with a community rooted in a strong agricultural economy with thriving farms, where all are connected to and nourished by local farms and food.”

“The partnership between the Vermont Department of Health and the Healthy Roots Collaborative is critical because our goal is to create local food champions,” Boynton said.  “As a small part-time staff, we don’t have the capacity to reach every school and every community. We need partners like the Vermont Department of Health to carry on the work with us.”

"By 2030, nobody will live in extreme poverty anywhere in the world." #GlobalGoals

“People need to eat and cook together,” Boynton said. “Beyond the nutritional value, it is a family and community value that we need to see in order to build bonds and personal wellness. As a society, we need to regain our cooking skills and take time to be together. The cooking class gave us the opportunity to put those values into play with real families. It has been proven that when people sit down and eat together they come to consensus more quickly and that consensus building comes even faster when people eat family style. We need to build family and community bonds. And, just like meeting the farmer, when kids cook the food they are more likely to eat the food.”

According to Huff, providing cooking classes to students and families together is particularly satisfying because students are often more brave than their parents about trying new foods or being open to new, healthy choices.

“Students are used to being in a learning environment every day,” Huff said. “When a parent might be hesitant to sign up for a class on their own they are more likely to join in with their child. In these moments, the students become the leaders and not only encourage their parents towards healthier foods but practice the very important work of becoming a leader for tomorrow.”

“Different foods can make such good meals. I was surprised how you could use winter squash to make soup. And the roasted winter squash was delicious. After the cooking class, I made the chickpea salad at home and it was delicious,” third-grader Cailin Macaulay said. “It makes my heart feel good to know that some of our harvest also went to people that are hungry. It was so easy for us to do but it really helped out other people. I never really knew how important good food is to everyone until I learned that some people don’t have enough.”

Of his trip to the farm, third-grader Harrison Frennier said, “I learned that you need a lot of skill to farm and to harvest things. I was very happy that I actually got to meet the farmer that grows things and learn about how he works and takes care of the earth.”

Food harvested and prepared from the garden

“It was really fun to pick the pumpkins and squash and get the cabbage boxed up. I learned that after the whole harvest goes by you can still go to a farm because there is still food in the fields that can be used and should not go to waste,” third-grader Addie Gillilan said. “It was interesting to meet the farmer because I learned a lot about how he runs his business.”

“Seeing the entire process from growing the produce to harvesting and preparing it to bring the learning full circle for our students,” Godin said. “And donating a portion of the harvest helps them to understand that in addition to their own learning they are contributing to others.”

“I think this cooking class was important because we learned about the sustainability of our food and that there are many ways to prepare it,” parent Deedra Austin said. “It’s good to try new foods. Growing up I never ate anything with cabbage and now I have cabbage recipes I will actually eat. It’s also important for any child to learn where food is coming from and how to take care of the planet. It’s good to try new foods and to know the process it takes to go from ground to table.”

Fletcher Elementary’s Parent Engagement Plan includes a second cooking and nutrition class scheduled for the coming weeks. It will emphasize using healthy, local food to pack creative kid-friendly lunches.

UN Global Goals #2 Zero Hunger #teachsdgs

#globalgoal2 #zerohunger #teachsdgs #globalgoals

Chris and Jackson


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

THE #FWSU STORY: Students Explore 3D Design in GEMS Innovation Lab

The GEMS Innovation Lab and Art Program have created a combined offering for seventh and eighth-grade students in 3D design.

Student collaborate with 3D art projects

Students have started out with a rotation that involves using 3D computer technologies with Mrs. Payne, creating sculptures out of repurposed materials with Mrs. Wolfson, and creating ping pong ball tracks out of cardboard with Mr. Hadd.  These activities have allowed students to practice some skills and build some understanding of 3D design principles.

Students refine their 3D designs

Soon the class will shift toward learning more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  These 17 goals are a plan for solving a variety of global problems by 2030.  The goals are written for citizen participation and students, in particular, can play a vital role.

Students create in the GEMS innovation lab

The connection between 3D design and the SDGs will be forged when students complete a final project of their own design that is targeted toward raising awareness of a global problem and what actions others can take to address it.  Students may also use 3D design principles to invent or model a potential solution for a global problem.

SDG The UN Global Goals for Sustainability on display in the school hallway

The collaboration between Art and the Innovation Lab along with the SDG work is giving students an opportunity to make an impact and see how citizenship connects all their experiences.

SDG UN Global Goals for Sustainability

THE #FWSU STORY: Celebrating National Principals Month!

October National Principals Month and I want to thank all of our building principals for their work. It’s no secret that the key to student success is a great school, and the key to a great school is a great principal.

Students pose with Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal Geri Witalec-Krupa

BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague and Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Geri Witalec-Krupa

The great thing about being is a principal is that each day, sometimes each hour, is a new and different experience. An “ordinary” work day is nothing but a dream and most days, no matter what the plan is, that plan is always subject to change. It makes each day fun and every day a challenge.

Principal Christopher Dodge pictured with two Fletcher Elementary students

Fletcher Elementary Principal Chris Dodge

Our principals set high standards for their schools and work tirelessly with students and teachers to make everything work. They are at home observing and evaluating classrooms as they are supervising a lunchroom filled with students, putting on a band aid or just having fun at bus time.

Georgia Elementary Principal Steve Emery smiles as student stands by

GEMS Elementary Principal Steve Emery

Our principals care about each and every one of our students. They want them all to be successful not only in school but in every facet of life. They are there to support students when asked and sometimes when they aren’t – they just know.

BFA Fairfax Secondary Principal John Tague

BFA Fairfax Middle/High Principal John Tague

I know our principal’s worry in private and lose sleep over issues that occur in school. But each morning they arrive and push everything else aside to find new ways to get things done. Most times, principals smile and nod although the to-do list of tasks seem endless.

Ultimately the most important attribute that all of our principals share is the love and trust they have in the schools in which they work. Our schools are so fortunate to have amazing school leaders!

BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Tom Walsh poses with classroom of students

BFA Fairfax Elementary Principal Thomas Walsh

Thank you Steve, Frank, Geri, Chris, Tom, and John.

UN SDG Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Ned Kirsch Superintendent

Ned Kirsch is the Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @betavt.