On Tuesday evening members of the Champlain Valley School District School Board met in an unusual session to discuss the implications of moving from a building-based system to a remote-service delivery system. This task, in a rural area with limited internet service and a proportion of students living below the poverty line, will involve a re-invention of the system. The members acknowledged the difficulties and pressure on the CVSD administration as it develops a new way to deliver the services that were once building-based.

Charlotte schools and the CVSD district are like other school systems across the country. Academic services are one part of the mission of the schools, but given the lack of supports in the overall social system, schools are also responsible for delivering mental health services, including social work, guidance and psychological services; child care and preschool education; special education; nutrition, including two meals a day; transportation; and internet academics.

The board’s discussion was focused on the delivery of these services outside of school buildings and assurance that all students will have access to them, no matter their socioeconomic status.

The other pressing issue for the board is how to navigate communication during the transition period when nervous parents approach the members with criticisms of the implementation. Several members are parents of current students and must react to the situation both as parents and board members. Board Chair Lynne Jaunich stressed that in this troubling transition time the responsibility of the board is to ask the right questions of administration and seek the answers, particularly in the area of equity of delivery of services, rather than to manage the transition itself.

Related topics addressed included:

  • The effects of the closure of CVU with the cancellation of senior recognition ceremonies. Students are grieving the loss of a predictable series of celebrations that recognize their four-year effort at CVU.
  • Asking the district to investigate possible delivery of mental health services via hotlines or the internet.
  • How to best deliver meals to students in need. Currently, parents must go to drop-off sites at schools, but some cannot get there. The board suggested the district be asked to look into the matter of possible delivery of meals by school buses. The provision of meals to CVSD students is free for all students.
    Communication to parents from CVSD and how that can be made more empathetic and clearer.
  • How to deliver academics to students with poor internet service, and the reality that many parents are spending hours homeschooling their children while others must work or cannot do so. This problem is at the core of the equity issue across the district.

The feeling of some board members is that the district has resources and that all regular committee matters should be put on hold while the board considers how to act boldly to deliver equitable services. Consideration was given to the fact that the board and the administration are inventing a new system and are only two weeks into this fundamental systemic change.