Chea Waters Evans

The Champlain Valley School District (CVSD), which is comprised of six schools in four towns, has one big budget that covers the needs of every school in the district. This is the second year after local schools merged to form one district and the school budget went from being a town-based issue to a district-wide vote.

When the numbers come in, it can be difficult to tell where exactly the money goes to each individual school. Charlotte Central School (CCS), while facing some minor adjustments in the next year, has no major changes forecast for the coming school year.

The short answers to the questions about this year’s budget are as follows, according to Charlotte Central School principals Stephanie Sumner and Jennifer Roth. Will there be major staffing hourly changes? No. Will there be any noticeable changes at the school from a budgetary or facilities point of view? No.

Operating under a system that District Superintendent Elaine Pinckney describes as the “equity autonomy matrix,” the school board, administrators from each school and the staff at the district level plan each fiscal year’s budget throughout the calendar year, not just during the traditional “budget season” before Town Meeting Day. Their goal, Pinckney said, is to make sure that all schools’ needs are met and that students are all treated equally, but providing each school with decision-making capability for its own particular needs.

For instance, CCS cut a substance-abuse professional (SAP) out of its budget several years ago, before district consolidation. An SAP provides more than just counseling and information about substances; the title is a bit of a misnomer. The district employs SAPs to cover issues such as how to deal with stress and anxiety, online safety, healthy relationships and other topics related to student health and safety. CCS will welcome a part-time person in this profession next year to fill a role that is currently filled through curriculum across various classrooms and by the school nurse, Kate Larson.
“The SAP will be filling some components of health curriculum in an integrated approach,” Sumner said.

Staffing letters of intent were due on April 1, Sumner said; at press time, no further information was available regarding which staff members are returning next year and which are retiring or moving on.

Much like staffing needs, the district prioritizes physical building issues across the district and addresses them in order of importance. CVSD Chief Operations Officer Jeanne Jensen said in an email, “Our first priorities are student safety and regulatory compliance. CCS’s immediate projects include a new access control system for the building, replacing the water supply line from the well, replacing the oil tank, and repairing sidewalks and egress ramps for ADA compliance.”

The big question as far as buildings are concerned is the large green monstrosity that has sat like a rusty hulk in the west parking lot of the school for decades: the Quonset hut. Jensen confirmed that it is on the school district’s radar for removal, though the timing of its destruction is still up in the air. Emphasizing that it poses no health risk to students, staff or the community in general, Jensen said that in 2009 a report confirmed that “the building contains both asbestos and PCBs in the caulk used around windows, doors and in the seams of the structure itself. The demolition of the building would require the use of a contractor licensed to work with hazardous materials.”

“However, CVSD has made great strides at removing all hazardous materials from our schools and the board thinks it’s time to take care of this instance, too.”