By Curt Peterson
Following a short presentation by Jim Haff (Killington), chairman of the Windsor Central Unified School District buildings and grounds committee, the district board approved investing up to $130,000 to install a “super” dehumidifying system, complete some related electrical work and do some deep cleaning to get the Prosper Valley School in Pomfret ready for fall occupancy.
The committee had agreed on the recommendation following a walk-through meeting at TPVS on May 25.
Haff said $50,000 of the cost had already been budgeted in FY2020. The remaining $80,000 would come from general buildings and grounds funds meant to repair and maintain all the district campuses. The buildings and grounds committee believe TPVS should be a priority investment, partly because it may be necessary to achieve state-required student density due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sherry Sousa, director of instructional support, and outgoing District Superintendent Mary Beth Banios expressed concern about drawing funds away from the other district schools.
Sousa also said additional hires – teachers, support staff, a school nurse, e.g. – will be needed if TPVS is reopened, and the FY2021 budget is “up in the air.” The state Education Fund is currently predicting a $150 million shortfall that may or may not be remedied with funds from the federal government.
Banios and Sousa expressed empathy with Pomfret and Bridgewater parents who have seen their school vacant and unused for over two years due to moisture and non-toxic mold issues.
But responding to the pandemic has to take ultimate priority, they said, and will require additional costs not yet calculated.
The district is waiting for guidance from the Agency of Education to design what education “will look like” if schools are opened in the fall.
A meeting of 40-plus including various stakeholders is planned at the Grand Hotel in Killington in July, Sousa said, to develop a model for the district that is best for all concerned. The state is expected to have revealed its plans and requirements by then.
Meanwhile a free “Summer Soak” program for district kids from Kindergarten through 8th grade (high school students on an individual case basis) will go forward, funded by $100,000 raised from private donations.
Two “housekeeping” issues were settled – the board voted to accept quitclaim deeds for the Killington, Reading and TPVS school properties, and passed resolutions transferring Woodstock Elementary and the Middle/High School properties to the district.
The donor of $200,000 in “matching funds” to finance the proposed new Middle/High School building planning has removed the requirement that funds be matched. The board voted to accept approximately $130,000 still held in escrow awaiting a match.