CHESTER, Vt. — The Green Mountain Unified School District board heard recommendations on Thursday, Sept. 16, for facility improvements across all three schools in the district based on a report by Energy Efficient Investments (EEI) with options and cost breakdowns also provided.
EEI had been tasked with doing full building energy efficiency and performance evaluations for all schools in the district over the past several years. In addition to their assessment of air quality systems in each school, their presentation also included recommendations based on categories for safety, accessibility, and interior and exterior maintenance.
According to the report, none of the schools — Green Mountain Union High School, Chester Andover Elementary School, or Cavendish Town Elementary School — meet the current guidelines for filtration and dehumidification.
Green Mountain Union High School is in the most need of upgrades and has not had any major renovations since it was built in 1971 and has a ventilation system controlled by pneumatic air technology that has not been used since the 1980s. The windows are also a part of that system so replacing the system would also require window replacement as well.
Safety issues brought forward include the lack of sprinkler systems in both Green Mountain Union High School and Chester Andover Elementary School and classrooms without egress windows, which are a requirement with no sprinkler system.
Other Green Mountain Union High School recommendations include replacing the elevator and several non-American Disabilities Act compliant features including lack of compliant bathrooms, ramp handrails, multilevel drinking fountains, and lack of access to the stage in the auditorium. Other recommended improvements include upgrading floors, kitchen equipment, and doors throughout.
Recommendation for the Chester Andover Elementary School included adding sprinkler system, providing an ADA-compliant toilet and shower in the nurse’s office, providing multilevel drinking fountains, and providing access to the stage. Other upgrades to floors, windows, and kitchen equipment were also included. EEI also included several scenarios for possible expansion.
Cavendish Town Elementary School was in the best shape with minimal upgrades recommended but including changes to insulation to prevent ice damming as well as other upgrades.
Cost scenarios ranged anywhere from $6 to 15 million for Green Mountain Union High School; $4 to 10 million for Chester Andover Elementary School; and $1 million plus for Cavendish Town Elementary School, depending on what recommendations the board wanted to address and present to voters.
A separate meeting will be scheduled to go through the costs and recommendations in greater detail and for the board to determine next steps and which issues they will address in each school.
According to Green Mountain Union High School principal Keith Hill, they are in the process gathering vaccination information from parents on the percentage of vaccinated students in the school as they work toward an 80% student vaccination rate that would allow the current mask mandate to be lifted. According to preliminary numbers, only 75 of 370 kids have provided proof of vaccination so far.
Vaccination designation will also impact contact-tracing protocols since students who are vaccinated will not have to quarantine for two weeks, versus those who are unvaccinated.
Green Mountain Union High School parent Ken Saccardo started the meeting asking the board immediately reverse the mask mandate. Saccardo has spoken openly against the board and the mask mandate in the last several meetings. He has also sent the board a legal document, currently under review by the school district’s attorney, that accuses the board of violating state statutes among other discriminatory claims.
The board met in executive session at the end of the meeting to review their attorney’s response to a document received by a parent although it was not confirmed that the executive session was specifically about Saccardo. No action was taken after the session.
Katie Murphy was voted as the replacement GMUSD school board director for Chester, replacing Jeannie Wade.
The next Green Mountain Unified School District is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m.