By Chea Waters Evans
While students are taking a break, Charlotte Central School (CCS) is undergoing exterior improvements and removing an infamous town landmark. Plans are also taking shape for a major project in the future.
Schoolwork in the summer? Yes, but the fun kind—the kind that someone else is doing.
The exterior improvement most visible to the public for now is the removal of the outside stairs on the east side of the building. The cement staircase is currently in the process of being replaced with safer steps that are also compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) Chief Operations Officer Jeanne Jensen said the repairs were at the top of the school’s priority list. “This was a high priority project not only for our students but also for community members using the school for voting and Town Meeting. We are also replacing 540 feet of sidewalk along the front of the school, which is badly in need of repair and also needs to be rebuilt for improved accessibility.”
The next major project is removing the Quonset hut, which is in the parking lot west of the school and has been there for decades. While the building poses no immediate health threat to the school or community, the building, which is currently used for storage space, contains asbestos and PCBs and is at the top of CVSD’s maintenance priority list. Jensen said, “The Quonset hut is being removed as part of the district’s aggressive effort to eliminate hazardous materials from our buildings and grounds.”
The school district held an event last year for community members to remove any items of interest from the years of flotsam and jetsam that accumulated in the space. Several truckloads of material were recycled, and Jensen said the remaining items are currently in two storage containers on school grounds.
Jensen said “a licensed remediation contractor has been engaged and will start work in late July. We expect the project to be completed before school starts in August.” She also said that, when she met with the Selectboard to discuss an unrelated matter two years ago, they asked when the school district was going to get started on removing the hut.
With space freed up in the parking lot and school drop-off and pickup lines—a constant struggle for parents and teachers—Jensen said there will be a new storage space but it might not be in the same spot. “Plans for a smaller maintenance shed/shop are being developed, along with a study of traffic patterns, which we hope will improve the flow for drop offs and pickups. The schools will notify parents before school starts if there are changes.”
The school district is also replacing a water line connecting the school’s well to the building and replacing an old fuel oil tank, which she said “is past its recommended age and does not meet the current underground storage tank standards.”
Jensen also teased some bigger plans for the future: “We are refreshing plans for a major building renovation for Charlotte Central School,” she said. “The plans will be based on the two or three different architectural proposals that were developed under the Charlotte School Board but never taken to the community for a bond vote. So the project has definitely not been given a go-ahead yet. We plan to bring the plans to the board in time for them to consider putting a vote on the ballot in March of 2020. Remember that all of the CVSD communities will be voting on that potential bond.”
Since consolidating two years ago, the CCS budget is now part of the budget for all CVSD schools, and funding for building projects must be on the ballot for all towns that have schools in the district. At a school board meeting last spring, Chair Lynne Jaunich casually mentioned her desire to one day combine Charlotte and Hinesburg school systems and have one town’s school function as an elementary school and the other town’s as a middle school.
Jensen said she has “heard that proposal mentioned several times, and I understand the educational leadership team is excited by the expanded opportunities for kids that a combined program would bring, but I do not believe the CVSD board has had that discussion yet. The first phase of the renovation will likely be infrastructure (HVAC, asbestos removal, roof repairs) and would not be dependent on this decision.”