Montpelier schools seek $5 million bond

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Montpelier High School principal Mike McRaith checks the water level in a collection barrel in a science classroom at the school Thursday. The school district has allocated $250,000 to fix the problem but is also seeking voter approval of a $5 million bond for other much-needed school repairs.

MONTPELIER — The Montpelier School District has a significant wish list of major projects at two schools to be funded by a $5 million bond if voters approve at Town Meeting in March.  The bond would be split evenly between Union Elementary School and Montpelier High School. At UES, a total of $2.525 million would be spent on a playground upgrade ($1.17 million), replacement of electrical wiring, fire alarm and public address system ($540,000), replacement of an elevator ($515,000), and bathroom renovations ($300,000). At MHS, a total of $2.52 million would be spent on gym and locker room renovations ($1.78 million) and auditorium renovations ($740,000).   There are no plans for work at Main Street Middle School, which had a number of repair and renovation projects in recent years, or at Roxbury Village School, which merged with the Montpelier School District under Act 46 in June.  Much of the work at UES and MHS is contingent on voters approving the bond vote in March and would not begin until the spring of 2019, after design work is complete. But the school district has already authorized work to begin on the UES playground, funded by $300,000 of school reserves with additional funding coming from grants, private donors and fundraising.   Work on the UES playground will start this spring. Major pieces of the project include remediation of contaminated soil; stormwater erosion control and improvements; the construction of an elevated outdoor education arena; better access to playground equipment; the creation of a small activities field; and a four-seasons-of-play activity program. The project will include improvements to both the main playground and the kindergarten and pre-K playground in the center of the school complex.   "That project (UES playground) is about as close to shovel-ready, for lack of a better word, as any of the bond projects," said Facilities Director Thom Wood. "The engineering and design work has already been paid for by the school board.  "All these (bond) projects have been developed where we feel comfortable in terms of the money that we're looking for, but there's still a lot of architectural and engineering work that we need to finish to be able to bid it and build it that would come after the bond is approved," Wood added.  At MHS, work will also begin this summer on replacing the roof, if the school budget is approved, after the school board allocated $250,000 for a capital improvement project. The roof is leaking into classrooms and causing condensation and rust in lockers, school officials said.  Wood said the bond projects at both schools are for much-needed repairs and upgrades to aging infrastructure at the elementary school, built in 1938, and the high school, built in 1957.  Much of the electrical wiring at UES is "original to the building," and should have been replaced 40 years ago, is not up to current fire code and provided limited power outlets in classrooms, Wood said. Similarly, Wood said the fire alarm and public address system at UES were dated and inadequate and would be replaced with a dual system that serves both functions.  Wood said the UES elevator also needs to be moved from the northwest corner to the northeast corner of the building, closest to the handicapped-accessible entrance to the building. Plans are also in place to build an outdoor glass-sided entry vestibule that would allow children to be more visible to parents picking them up at that entrance. Three of four bathroom units at UES also need to be renovated and upgraded, Wood added.   At the high school, much of the athletic facilities date back to 1957, although there were some piecemeal renovations to the locker rooms over the years. Wood said changing needs meant locker rooms could be condensed, with opportunities to create additional team meeting space, a classroom for health studies, a coach's office and storage. Gym upgrades would include improvements to the bleachers, backboards, curtains, energy-efficient heating and ventilation, and renovation of lobby bathrooms.  Auditorium renovations at MHS would include rebuilding the stage, refurbished seating, enhanced audio and lighting systems, and building a green room for stage performers.  "A lot of it is deferred maintenance," said MHS Principal Mike McRaith. "We have rising enrollment and a lot of parts of the building that are aging, and it's time to do the investment that the building needs."  School Board Chairman Jim Murphy said the bond reflected the need for upgrades and maintenance to ensure the educational and safety needs of students. It would also be a chance to provide dynamic learning, and athletic and recreational environments for both students and the community, he said.  "These are needed education investments but also investments that will serve the community as a whole and create some much-needed public space and public engagement opportunities," he said.  stephen.mills@timesargus.com 

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