Unpacking The Harwood Bond

Photo by ReArch Company.


On Tuesday, November 2nd, the five-town coalition of Waitsfield, Warren, Waterbury, Duxbury and Fayston voted ‘no’ on the HUUSD bond vote, 3 to 1. The proposed bond would have entirely altered the Harwood school building by addressing its necessary renovations and instating desirable improvements. Students, both those who wouldn’t be affected by the bond’s passing and those who will be, weighed in on how they reacted to the bond’s failure.*

“I was kind of taken aback by the amount of people who voted against it,” said one student. “But, at the same time, I felt like it was kind of realistic, and I think if I were an adult, or someone who was paying taxes, I probably would’ve voted the same way.”

“I was also surprised by how big the split was,” added another student. “I was surprised that people didn’t really seem to value our learning environment as much as I thought. I hope that things will change.”

“I’m honestly disappointed that it didn’t go through,” said another student. “I feel like there could’ve been some propaganda happening on Twitter and whatnot, you know what I’m saying? And yeah, I’m disappointed that we can’t get the money to better the school and the community.”

“I think it’s very sad,” said a student. “It’s a reflection of the values of the community. And I think, to me, it shows that people aren’t willing to invest in education and don’t care as much about students and their well-being as they should, and I think that people need to realize that education is an investment. It isn’t cheap, and if you want to have good schools, you have to put in the money.”

“I can understand how there may have been a lot of things pushed into the bond vote and how that is slightly overwhelming for a community to see,” said a student. “But it’s evident that being in the school that we need, things need to be done to the school and change needs to happen, and it’s gonna have to start somewhere.”

*All students were kept anonymous to protect their identity.



The ballot vote for a $59.5M bond for the Harwood Unified Union School District failed with 3575 votes cast, including 975 YES (27%) and 2599 NO (73%).

The next board meeting on November 10th will see members discussing the implications of the bond’s failure and considering the next steps to be taken. Seven of the fourteen places on the school board are up for re-election in March. The new board’s burdens will include the selection of a new superintendent as well as the redevelopment of a plan for Harwood’s necessary improvements and refurbishing.



“We’re excited,” said two parents, accompanied by a pink-sweatered daughter in a pom-pom beanie. “We’ve known about it and talked with the community. What brought us around was the 10-minute video on the Harwood website. We know it was propaganda, but it showed how important this is for the future of the students.” 

“The community is polarized,” they said. “Lower-income people and those with no kids are against it, but educating our kids, it’ll all trickle down. We’re all in this together.”

“I support everything you’re doing,” said a woman in a grey windbreaker on her way back to her Tesla. “Honestly, I wish the number was higher.” 

“I support the bond because I support keeping our physical plant in decent shape,” said a woman accompanied by her husband. “I was at Harwood for 21 years. I don’t want to see the building just collapse around its years.”

“I was interested in how many people talked about [the bond vote] on Front Porch Forum and in other places,” said a woman in a beige fur coat. “I voted in an unusual way, for me, based on all the feedback from the community.”

“I don’t agree with it,” said an older woman in a North Face jacket. “I don’t think it’s been thoroughly researched enough, for other ways to do it. There’s other options. I just think they always go to the easiest way, which is money, instead of looking at other options. I mean, it’s gonna cost something, but you don’t have to do everything.”

“Well, I think they should’ve done a little bit more, a little at a time, instead of one big thing,” said an elderly man. His partner nodded, said, “Me too.”

“As a former school board member, and having been involved with education, I think it’s really important that we support these kinds of initiatives,” said a man in a tan peacoat. “I’ve learned about the bond through Front Porch Forum and The Valley Reporter, and I’ve been following the media discussions, back and forth, pro and con, and I voted pro.”

“Well, I’ve read the two letters in The Valley Reporter,” said a woman with a floral-patterned mask. “And as much as I want that school to improve, I don’t know if it’s the time, because of construction costs and those PCBs, that was very interesting to learn about. Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?”

“Well, I know the school is outdated in many ways,” said a man in a baseball cap. “And I know that there’s some deferred maintenance that needs to be taken care of and improvements in order to keep pace with time. I believe that this bond will impact the next 25 years. Simply investing in education and young people is, I think, essential to the success and longevity of The Valley.”

* * *

You don’t need to take a good look at our school to notice its dilapidation⸺just a cursory glance and a brisk walk through the school will reveal decrepit facilities, sagging roofs, chafing asbestos tiling and trash cans maneuvered in the hallways to capture a steady leak of tea-colored water.

Nonetheless, we make do with the facility we have. But are there improvements that can be made that will improve quality of life for our students, faculty and staff? This is what the Harwood Unified Union School District Bond strives to achieve—a project that Harwood’s principals hope will renovate the school into a place of inclusivity which will instill students with a sense of pride and reflect the philosophy of education that Harwood represents.



In a survey conducted on October 26, 2021, 73.4% of Harwood students reported having heard of the bond, but only 3.2% reported confidently that they knew precisely what the bond was and what it entailed. 35.7% felt midway, and 25.3% reported knowing nothing at all about the bond.

In contrast, the majority skewed toward reporting that the bond was important, even though most did not feel confident that they knew what it was about: 20.1% said it was Very Important, 31.8% said it was Important and 34.4% rested in the middle. Contrariwise, 7.8% reported it being Not Important.

Although they knew that the bond was important, students are not confident or well-versed in what the bond is: 25.3% were Not Confident, 21.4% were Less Confident, and 32.5% were Neutral. Only 5.2% felt Confident.

Since the HUUSD bond is a vote that will determine the course of the school’s coming years, it is of the utmost importance that students are aware of the greater implications of the bond’s passing, or failing, and what it means for them as Harwood students and community members.



The HUUSD bond has been in talks since 2015. An earlier version pursuing a similar objective failed in 2009. Only in the spring of 2021 did Harwood principals Laurie Greenberg and Megan McDonough become more involved. “I knew very little about the bond before getting the position,” said Laurie Greenberg, Harwood co-principal. During her interview for the position as principal during the first few months of the pandemic, the bond was mentioned, but Greenberg didn’t “understand the full extent [of it].”

“We were coming in at the eleventh hour,” added McDonough. As they became increasingly involved, however, they became excited for the prospect of giving the school a much-needed makeover. They expressed enthusiasm about better equity of access to facilities for students, expanding spaces for the sort of Harkness discussions that Harwood cherishes (round tables, inclusive, equitable), and the addition of new material to help diversify the education style and programs, such as the addition of better-equipped STEM programs. According to the principals, another big plus to the bond is the promotion of natural light, which they believe every classroom should have access to in order to benefit the students’ well-being.



A bond is a financial tool that is traded with a set interest rate as a contract on the financial market. It’s like a sizable loan; rather than banks offering as lenders, individual investors and funds would manage that commitment.

The proposed $59,545,312 bond would be fully funded by taxpayers. If the community vote on November 2nd passes, the education tax rate is expected to increase by $0.14, or about an 8% raise in order to finance the direly needed repairs and improvements to the school. A $250K household can anticipate paying an additional $350 per year, and a $500K household an increase of about $700. Depending on when the bond is instated, it would be fully paid off by 2043 or 2044. 

The Harwood Unified Union School District bond comprises of four discrete, yet interconnected, parts. The first consists of “Repairs and Compliances,” which includes the most necessary improvements to the school. These are ones that, whether or not the bond passes, will need to be fixed in the coming months. Having the bond pass will only make the job much simpler, as it will all be addressed in a ‘package deal.’

In this first section, the outdated roof and its leaks will be redone, and the asbestos tiling removed and replaced. Additionally, the parking lot will be repaved and storm drainage updated, and natural lighting increased and improved; lighting, in general, will be revamped, as LED lights will replace old fluorescent lights. Ventilation in the science labs will be addressed, security strengthened, plumbing updated, and outdated heating and cooling systems replaced. This section is centered on general safety and the absolutely necessary repairs to the Harwood building; it covers about $22M of the bond.

The second part of the bond is “Efficiencies and Improvements,” which will focus on bringing the school ‘up to speed,’ refurbishing the building from the 1960s into one fit for the modern age. It consists of $14M of the bond. This includes energy improvements and the general function of the building, including lighting, insulation, and dehumidification, as well as flooring and furnishing.

Currently, Harwood has small science labs scattered throughout the building, dark, ill-lit classrooms, a special education center that is distinctly separate from the school community, and few spaces for informal collaboration. This section of the bond addresses all these aspects, completely revamping the school to emphasize its singularity and cooperation. Furthermore, the Central Offices and the Harwood Community Learning Center, which now sits off-campus on Dowsville Road, would be moved back into the building; these changes alone would save around $100,000 a year.

Thirdly, $17M of the bond will address “Educational Alignment.” These are the improvements necessary to bring Harwood fully from the 60s into the 2020s to highlight the sort of learning philosophy that the administrators advocate for. As of today, Harwood still has an institutionalized atmosphere, with solid-color grey lockers, black linoleum flooring, and cinderblock walls. The bond wants to stress that the school is the centerpiece of the community, and new provisions included in the bond would address that.

These would include Innovation labs to foster active participation for students and to kindle excitement in technical and vocational education, STEM hubs, and the extension of programs to create more opportunities for students. Greenberg and McDonough hold that these design changes will engage students, draw in visitors with their appeal, and thus increase student population and solidify our school community.

Other new improvements to be pursued include Wellness spaces to promote positive social interaction, flex spaces where teachers and students can collaborate in group discourse, planning, and projects, as well as a 9th-grade team space to facilitate a smooth transition to high school.

“Harwood Union is one of the only schools in the state that has only one gym for high school,” said Greenberg in a video put together for the HUUSD website. The addition of a second gymnasium would provide additional space for the community, improve ease of access to required phys-ed classes and practice opportunities for Harwood and community sports programs.

In the winter, with access to just one gym, the opportunities for multiple indoor sports programs are greatly reduced. Additionally, the wooden, steel-frame bleachers have decayed over time, and now some are not safe to pull out or use to accommodate viewers. 

The bond would renovate the current gym and instate a second one which would improve access to physical education classes for all students and facilitate student participation in athletics by adding room for community sports and athletics programs. “One of the biggest complaints you hear is that we try to use public space and they never allow the public to come in,” said Tommy Young, the Girls Varsity Basketball Coach, in the HUUSD video. “This would allow that to happen.”

Additionally, the new and improved outdoor track would be a quality facility for students and faculty, providing space and bleachers for spectators, installing better storm drainage and bathroom facilities, and increasing parking space for events and students. 

The administrators want to provide the students interested in athletics with a stronger sense of pride in their location and home facilities. The Harwood track is one of the only dirt tracks in Vermont and neglected in a way that no other school would attend if there were a Harwood home track meet; this is detrimental to the greater sense of school unity and pride in school spirit.

According to Ava Thurston, a Harwood senior, the track team has the potential of being much stronger than it currently is, if only they were given the essential facilities and materials to flourish. “We have a strong cross country program, and I think we could have a strong track program, too,” said Thurston in the HUUSD video. “I think updating the track would help with that because now it doesn’t draw anyone for meets. Teams don’t want to race on a dirt track.”

The goals of “Educational Alignment” are to maintain and cultivate a community where all students, staff, and families feel safe and welcome, to design a physical environment that reflects a positive school culture, and to strengthen and sustain a rigorous academic program for all students.

The last $6M of the bond is centered on consolidating the Harwood Middle School with the Crossett Brook Middle School. All Harwood students in 7th to 8th grade would be moved to Crossett Brook; thus, all middle schoolers from the Harwood School District would receive the same educational program to facilitate the cross-over into high school. Since all middle schoolers will be receiving the same education, freshman teachers at Harwood can expect to receive students with similar educational backgrounds rather than having to grapple with the two disparate blocs that are present today.

Additionally, the consolidation of the middle schools won’t injure Crossett Brook in any way. “The bond’s not going to (…) mess with our fields,” said Tom Drake, Crossett Brook principal, in the HUUSD video. “Crossett Brook is going to be pristine, that’s all going to be intact.” The concentration of these two groups of middle school students will create a central core of students who will form closer bonds and be better prepared for their transition to high school.

The new construction at Crossett Brook would include the New Core team (a space for special educators, four teachers, and about 90 students); the Applied Academics and Student Support Space, which would house art, music, P.E., and world languages; and, finally, a Community Gathering and Team Space with amphitheater seating, room for 150 spectators, and space for projects. 

Construction is predicted to last about two years; if the bond passes, these improvements could be completed as soon as the fall of 2023. “We do not have all of the details of what the learning spaces will look like during the construction,” said Greenberg. “They would try to do some of the main work while students are not in school, but we will have to create some temporary classrooms.” Nonetheless, whatever disruption the bond construction causes for student learning will be outweighed by the benefits of the long-term effects the bond will instate. 



Jane Regan, Harwood history teacher, recognizes the necessity of the building’s upgrade on a pedagogical and environmental level; from the microscale, of improving ventilation, up until the macroscale, of lessening Harwood’s carbon footprint. But she feels that there’s something significant missing from the bond.

“It’s too bad that none of the funding is going to human resources,” said Regan. “You can have the most beautiful building, but if there’s no staff to run it, well…”

Regan shared an analogy that she said was “extreme” but illustrated the situation well: when she was doing work in Haiti, foreign governments poured in money to build impressive school buildings. They posed for pictures and made their speeches, and then packed up and left. The Haitian government didn’t have the budget to maintain the schools, so the construction was for naught.

Unlike the Haitian government that couldn’t afford to staff the schools, Harwood’s teachers have enough support to get by, but not enough so they’re living comfortably. “Nobody who has a college loan can become a teacher,” said Regan. “The salaries are too low.” What Regan makes in two weeks, she said, a veterinarian makes in one day.

Although Regan supports the bond, she feels that, too often, teachers are overlooked. “What about the people that clean our halls? They keep this school running,” said Regan. She recognizes that the bond is a “one-time thing” that will address a multiplicity of issues, but she feels strongly that human resources need to be moved into the spotlight.

“On whose agenda is it?” said Regan. “I hope they’re working on it in some back room.” And if someone is working on this, why hasn’t it been announced? Why haven’t the educators been pushed into the forefront of the bond package? Like the administrators are hoping, the bond will no doubt make the building more attractive and draw in more students. But if the school is understaffed and their salaries aren’t enough to support them, will the construction, like that of the Haitian schools, amount to nothing?

“Human resources can’t be paid a fair wage,” said Regan. “They need to be paid a good wage.”



If the bond fails, “we’ll do it piecemeal,” said Greenberg. For instance, new tables and furnishing has been procured for the cafeteria and the hallway by the South Entrance was carpeted over the summer. Little improvements like these would continue, but in no way would they cover the extent to which the bond would update the school.

The outcome of this bond vote will decide what future we can expect from our school, and in what esteem we hold our educational system. What sort of opportunities do we want to give to our children, and how can we best improve the facilities that educate them? And how can we continue to question ourselves on the things we might be taking for granted, like the hard work our educators do to maintain the school? What can we do, now and in the future, to improve quality of life not just for the students whose building will contribute to their education, but for everyone who sets foot in Harwood’s halls?