The Burlington and Winooski school systems are the most diverse in Vermont, and they have something else in common as well; they’re exploring ways to reinvent themselves through an unusual effort that drew hundreds of community members from both cities together Saturday.
Last year the two communities won a nearly $4 million grant from the Nellie Mae Foundation to explore some new thinking. They call it remodeling their schools — re-thinking how and where kids learn best and building stronger connections with parents.
They’ll start with high school.
Saturday, 300 parents, teachers and business leaders from Winooski and Burlington took part in the first big event of this effort called “Partnership for Change.”
Discussions included a high school experience beyond 45-minute classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., September to June. It’s about expanding new learning opportunities.
“Well you’d see a lot of students working at the pace that works for them instead of feeling left out. Their needs not being attended to, you know, for graduation,” said Michael Soguero, of Eagle Rock School in Coloroado.
The communities of Burlington and Winooski blend students who were born here with immigrants from all over the world speaking a dozen different languages, which adds a new dimension to this work.
“What we’re seeing now in our community is that the seat time doesn’t necessarily translate into the skills you need to be college, career and citizen ready. And so we want to look at how to change those graduate expectations to be more skill-based,” said Partnership for Change Project Manager Lindsey Cox.
The Partnership for Change is a three-year effort.
National consultants in town to help Saturday said they’ve never seen as much participation from as many community members at the outset as they’re seeing here.
View the video here.