We are writing to discuss the need for a single bond vote that includes all the items that have been researched and proposed to the community. We are most intimately knowledgeable about the gym use after hours throughout the entire district because we develop the schedule for basketball for boys and girls grades 1-12 and also for all of the activities for every other group in our community that uses our gym assets. This includes fall, winter and spring schedules for children’s activities and adult events.
With this knowledge we can clearly state that we are in drastic need of gym infrastructure in our district. Allow us to take you through a year’s time of gym use in our district.
We have three gyms but Brookside’s gym is not sufficient or safe for use for grades above 4th. In all honesty, it’s not safe for 3rd and 4th graders either based on the small footprint, outdated facilities and unsafe environment.
So let’s focus on the two full-sized gyms we have at Crossett Brook Middle School and Harwood Union High School. The fall is a very busy time for both gyms with school volleyball, preseason basketball and the robust variety of adult events including soccer, multiple leagues of volleyball, rock climbing, etc. This is actually when the gyms are in demand the least, and they’re still nearly at capacity.
When winter preseason starts, the demands for the gyms are exponential.
At CBMS we need to establish practice and game times for three 5-6 girls basketball teams, up to four 5-6 boys basketball teams, three 7-8 girls basketball teams, and up to four or more boys 7-8basketball teams. There is also a contracted rock-climbing club day each week when no one else can use the gym. On top of all of that, there are adult soccer leagues, multiple volleyball leagues, adult basketball, etc..
This is just during the week. Saturdays and Sundays are filled with games and other uses for sports by HUUSD students.
What does this mean? It means we are lucky if our teams that we coach get two practices a week, and that’s sharing the gym with multiple teams.
In a time where we are working very hard to get our youth more active, this is clearly limiting our ability to accomplish that feat. And then there are school dances, games, events, etc. that will restrict the little bit of time allotted to each team.
Winter at HU is no better. We are trying to fit four basketball teams into one gym each day: junior varsity and varsity girls and boys With school now ending later in the day, scheduling four 90-minute practices (which is a half hour less than most other schools) will have kids ending practice at 10 p.m. and then driving home.
When there are games, wrestling matches, or events, kids will either have practices cut to bare minimum or cancelled altogether. This is just another example of kids losing out, once again, because of lack of facilities.
As we move on to spring, believe it or not, it gets even more congested. At CBMS we have club basketball for boys and girls with multiple teams for grades 5-12; baseball, softball and lacrosse for grades 1-8; girls and boys spring soccer; girls on the run, rock climbing, and then filter in the adult leagues.
Based on the fact that we live in Vermont, the outdoor sports can’t start until much later because the fields just aren’t ready to be played on.
At HU in spring, softball, jv and varsity baseball and lacrosse, and track take up the entire schedule for the gym leaving no room for any other group to use it. And just like basketball in the winter, these teams will not be getting out of late practice until 10 p.m. due to the late dismissal times.
All of this, to be honest, is plenty of reason to justify a second gym at HU.
So what will a second gym provide?
- No more late or limited practices
- No more shared gym space
- More facilities for taxpayers in the community to access for adult recreation
- Ability to expand school physical education offerings, as outlined in the thorough report on why the expanded gym space is direly needed.
- An investment into our youth’s ability to participate in physical activities on a consistent basis.
- Additional revenue sources through gym rentals.
- Additional space for unplanned need, for instruction and learning,such as how the gym was used during the pandemic for classroom and lunch space.
So, we are asking that you hold the course with presenting a single bond vote that includes the needed classroom upgrades, track upgrades, and specifically the gym upgrade. While the gym represents roughly 10% of the bond cost, we could easily argue that its need is several times that amount.
Waterbury resident Jay Bellows is the Harwood Union varsity boys basketball coach. Duxbury resident Tommy Young is the Harwood Union girls varsity basketball coach and a teacher at Waitsfield Elementary School.