The Lamoille South school district may be neck-deep in budget talks, but residents in Stowe, Morristown and Elmore have more than money on their minds.

More than 30 people recently signed a letter asking that Stowe High School fill an athletic trainer position that has been vacant since the beginning of the school year.

Meanwhile, a Stowe parent thinks the school district has taken its eye off its grading system, and residents need a better explanation of how their kids are doing in school.

Athletic trainer

At the beginning of this month, more than 30 people, most of them from Stowe, signed a letter to the school board and superintendent Tracy Wrend, asking the district to hire a new athletic trainer at Stowe High School.

The previous part-time trainer resigned at the beginning of the school year and was never replaced, even though there’s money in the budget for it.

School officials say they advertised for applicants but couldn’t find a qualified candidate for the job, so they pulled the help-wanted ad.

“As to why we didn’t hire (someone), we didn’t have any qualified applicants,” Wrend said at the Jan. 6 school board meeting. “So, we looked at other licensed professionals who could fit the bill.”

Wrend said the district offers a free drop-in clinic at Mansfield Orthopaedics in Morrisville, which is where the doctor who doubles as a game-time trainer for Peoples Academy and Lamoille Union High School works. And, she said, the school nurse is qualified to act as a trainer, at least enough to cover the requirements of Vermont’s Act 68, which covers student health.

The letter, headed by two Stowe couples — Kristina von Trapp Frame and Walter Frame, and Alec and Lee Genung — and signed by 31 others, stated that the need is real, particularly when the state has strict protocols about head injuries in sports and much of the student body plays sports.

“There is a super high percentage of students who participate on interscholastic athletic teams,” the letter says, adding many students might not have access to health care professionals, or be able to get to the free early-morning student hours at Mansfield Orthopaedics in Morrisville.

The letter said this leads to “an inequitable situation for many LSUU students when an athletic trainer is not available and the position is rejected by the school board and the superintendent. Moreover, when LSUU schools host athletic events, we have a responsibility to support the visiting teams with athletic trainer expertise, too.”

Some of the letter-signers attended the Jan. 6 school board meeting to pitch their concerns. Walter Frame told the board the “stopgap” measure of using a school nurse to act as a trainer during Stowe High playoff soccer games wasn’t sufficient.

Genung said the group is looking for three reassurances: confirmation that using Mansfield Orthopaedics isn’t a replacement for a trainer; making sure that all concussion baseline tests are done by trained professionals; and “immediately start recruiting” for a full-time trainer who will be present for games, practices and in-school office visits.

Bryan Huber, a surgeon at Mansfield Orthopaedics, said at the meeting that he helped create that drop-in clinic, and it’s no replacement for an in-house trainer.

“I’ve got 25 years of experience and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s unacceptable,” Huber said. “It’s not just about concussions, not about doing the bare minimum of standards. It’s about delivering care.”

Grading update sought

Stowe resident Steve Schleupner also wrote a letter asking the school board to spend some time tracking student progress through the new proficiency-based learning grading system.

He said every time he’s tried to bring it up, he gets “the runaround” from the board and Wrend.

The class of 2020 is the first to have the new grading system for all four years of high school.

“Every time I ask, I feel like I get a party line and a lot of op-eds, and I’m not interested in that,” Schleupner said at the Jan. 6 meeting.

Grading standards and the rollout of Schoology — a cloud-based course management system for online learning — “are major changes that require a lot of effort and quality management. Yet, I don’t see them being tracked for quality implementation, nor do I see effective communication to taxpayers and parents.”

Schleupner said he has had three children in the school system, and there have been inconsistencies in each of their experiences with proficiency-based learning.

He said he wonders how the board can perform “its overseer function” when there are “ancillary issues” like a lawsuit against Wrend and questions about paying for ice time at Stowe Arena.

Add to that budget talks, which have had the board largely occupied for the past month.

Board member Karen Cleary of Morristown said it’s something the board needs to keep an eye on. Wrend and other board members agreed — sometime after the budget and town meeting rush is over.

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