Towns To Vote On Whether To Buy Land For Outdoor Classroom

NEWBURY, Vt. (AP) — Residents of Newbury and Bradford will be voting next month whether to purchase a 10-acre parcel as an outdoor education space.

The Upper Valley elementary schools were implementing outdoor learning before the pandemic, including the Newbury Elementary School, which six years ago started to use a nearby parcel of land now called Forest School as an outdoor education space, the Valley News reported. It's been for sale for the past couple of years and off-limits, said Danielle Corti, chair of the Oxbow district’s board, this week.

Voters will be asked to approve spending $68,000 for the land off Pulaski Street, using money from the Oxbow Unified Union School district surplus, which currently totals $281,000, Corti said.

The land is a five-minute walk down a one-way street from the school. Advocates say spending time outdoors teaches children to be curious, resilient and persistent and can help students who struggle in a traditional classroom.

A special meeting vote is scheduled for Aug. 17 with an informational meeting planned for Aug. 11. Both meetings will be held in-person and on Zoom.

The parcel is a five-minute walk from the school, down a one-way street. The school’s motto is “World peace through harmony with self, harmony with others, harmony with nature,” Corti noted.

“It’s really worked wonderfully to bring those harmonies back out to the Forest School,” she said.

It’s also an small patch of old growth forest, tall pines and mature hardwoods, she added.

Support the Valley News. Subscribe Today

Where other schools opened outdoor classrooms to weather the 2021-22 pandemic school year, Newbury Elementary wasn’t able to use its Forest School. For the past couple of years, it’s been up for sale, and therefore off-limits, Corti said. Students had left their mark on the property, too, temporary forts and the like, Corti said.

Then-Principal Chance Lindsley came to a handshake deal with the landowner, John Renfrew, to use the parcel for the Forest School. Students at every grade level made use of the parcel.

Advocates for forest classrooms tout the way in which spending time outdoors teaches children to be curious, resilient and persistent.

Time outdoors also can help students who struggle in a traditional row of desks.

If the purchase goes through, there will likely be some additional costs to make the property at once more secure and more accessible, such as installing a gate and removing trees that might pose a hazard.