Waitsfield Elementary School -- Waitsfield, Vermont

Winter Ski/Skate Program Update

February 9th, 2007

There have been a number of parents asking questions regarding the ski and skate program.  The following is a brief explanation of its purpose, how it’s run, and our expectations for students, staff, and families.

The program is a collaborative effort, run by the school with the financial support of the PTA. Our collaboration includes parent volunteers, community volunteers, Sugarbush, Mad River, The Skatium, Ole’s, the PTA, school staff, and others. The program has two coordinators, Nancy Normandeau for winter adventure program, and Katie Westhelle for the ski/board program. Nancy, Katie, and Richard are responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the administration of the program.

The purpose of the program is to offer our children an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities that are so much a part of the culture of the Valley. It is also to create an opportunity for members of our community to share their passion for the outdoors with all of our students. While we do want to teach some skills, and by doing so enhance student appreciation of winter sports, skill advancement is not the primary focus of the program.

Each week, the school assigns three teachers to various duties for the ski/board program, and two teachers for the winter adventure program. The teachers are asked to fulfill a number of specific duties mostly geared toward safety and dealing with emergencies should they arise. Other teachers may join the program if they wish. You will see teachers skiing in and out of various groups, spending time with parents, as well as taking a run or two with colleagues. Some parents are assigned to groups while others are skiing on their own (pass holders).

Students are assigned to groups by Katie and the staff at the mountain. As students’ abilities change, they may change groups to assure that they are in a group at their level. The decision to move a student to more advanced groups or to drop them back to a lower level group lies solely with Katie. She will confer with the instructors in making these decisions. If parents have a concern with the placement of their child, they may certainly talk to Katie but the final group placement decision lies with her. Some groups have parent leaders while others have mountain instructors. Many of our parents are experienced instructors with higher-level skills and training than mountain staff. All group leaders have participated in training with mountain staff.

Some have asked how we decide if the program will be cancelled due to weather. We have a very specific process that we follow. Connie monitors the weather starting on Monday. She then gives that information to Katie and Richard. If the weather looks like it will be too cold, the wind chill too low, conditions not safe, or raining, we wait as long as we can before calling the activities off in the hope that the conditions may shift. The day of the program, Katie speaks with contacts at the mountain for a local report. She then goes up to the mountain, calls Richard who makes the final decision. Safety is our primary concern.

We are very fortunate to have this program and as principal, I am very pleased with the way it is run. We are lucky to have Katie and Nancy at the helm as they do a wonderful job running this program. There are a lot of moving parts and they understand them all. If you have any questions regarding your son’s or daughter’s participation in the program, please feel free to speak with me directly.

Richard Schattman

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