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DORSET — If cloudy skies and a little rain had you feeling down on Friday morning, the place to get re-energized was Kirby Hollow Road, for “Celebrate Long Trail School Day.”

There was more than enough energy on the grounds of the independent school to shake off morning blahs. The school’s middle- and high-school students, relieved of classes for the day, rolled up their sleeves and to got down to working — and playing.

It started at 9 a.m., Dean of Academics and Faculty Mary Ellen Mega said, when parent volunteers at the school’s day-long celebration felled a dying maple tree on the grounds. Once finished with their morning meeting, the kids got to work, and by 10 a.m., the only evidence of that tree was a large pile of brush and a stump.

That was one project among 20 that was parceled out for the school’s 240 students, along with faculty and an estimated two dozen parent volunteers, Mega said.

Along the driveway, students blew away leaves and debris, or hauled dead branches into piles. In a garden where weeds had run amok, there sat newly planted beds of greens and herbs, donated by Someday Farm.

But don’t get the idea there wasn’t fun being had, too.

An epic kickball game took shape on the school’s baseball diamond. A group of students departed for a hike around 11 a.m. Footballs and Frisbees took flight. And the student musicians of Melon — all of them part of the school’s International Baccalaureate diploma program — set up their amps and drums, and serenaded the gathering with a bluesy take on “Stormy Monday.”

Meanwhile, smoke began rising from a grill, where volunteers were ready to cook the midday meal.

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Maxine Linehan of Manchester, a Long Trail School parent, as well as the director of Red Fox Community School, paused to take in the view and said she was thinking of “how fortunate these kids are to go to this school.”

“This is what it’s about. It’s picture perfect,” Linehan said of the activity she saw against the autumn backdrop. “This is really showing what this community can do when they come together.”

The day’s events might have been far different if disagreements about the school’s present and future hadn’t been addressed in a mediated session earlier this month.

Faculty, supported by parents and alumni in their concerns about leadership at the school, had pledged to spend Oct. 15 teaching outside the building if their demands, including changes in the school’s board of trustees, were not addressed.

But an agreement was reached, and the faculty and administration jointly announced the entire school community would gather “in the values of the school to beautify our campus, to play games, do arts and crafts and have fun, and to share a meal.”

When Head of School Seth Linfield was asked if the day’s events represented a fresh start, he replied that it was more about renewing the school’s tradition of a stewardship day — reflecting one of the core values that have been part of Long Trail School since its founding.

“This is a next generation of our traditional stewardship days,” Linfield said, explaining that the past two years of pandemic had forced its cancelation. “I think that there is a lot of positive energy, and I think that’s what’s important. And I think that will carry forward in a good way and in the long run.”

“It’s all about the students,” Linfield added. “Every volunteer and every professional at Long Trail School is driven by our commitment to the students, and coming outside and having everybody focused on a commission purpose of serving the community only ratifies and enhances that feeling.”

Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at gsukiennik@benningtonbanner.com.

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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