Letter

We can’t afford to wait, vote ‘Yes’ for the school bond

Dear Editor,

My initial response to the proposed Woodstock MS/HS bond and build was, “$99 million is a lot of money and what is Plan B?” I am a teacher at Mountain Views Supervisory Union. I strongly believe in public education. As an educator, I decided to learn more about this hot topic in our community.

Here is what I found out:

  • Renovation is NOT an option

Concrete slabs/ cinder blocks makes reno not viable to meet code. The state does not recommend renovating the current building and will not fund it.

  • Current building is NOT safe

It’s not up to code; seismic, fire or ADA compliant. It is unable to quickly and effectively lock-down the facility.

  • Millions have been spent on repairs

Including failing heat, septic back ups, roof leaks, etc.  $1.3 million was spent on HVAC bandaid in 2022. The state identified approximately $16 million in urgent fixes (without solving core issues) if we don’t act now.

  • Inflation/cost escalation CAUSED the increase in price

Over $20 million increase in cost since 2019 (for a smaller building).

  • Significant cuts WERE made to the original design

MVSU has already cut 6,000 square feet and $16 million in cost already. The current plan for the building is the right size —  additional cuts would result in inadequate learning/teaching spaces AND would not significantly reduce tax impact.

  • Price per square feet is UNDER comparisons

We are at $627 per square foot. Acceptable square feet costs for building new high schools per VT-AOE is $645 square feet. Burlington high school is at $837 per square foot.

  • More efficient and cost-effective

New building material, efficient design plus zero energy elements equals substantially lower operating costs (and better for the environment).

Short-term tax increase? Or waiting and spending even more?

Waiting even a year could increase taxes an additional 5% or more.

  • Biggest bang for our buck

Waterbury’s Harwood middle school renovation is now estimated at $92 million, up from $60 million in 2021.

  • There’s no plan B

We can’t afford to wait!

As a teacher at Woodstock Elementary, I know quite well how our current MS/HS looks from the outside and how our students and staff feel about it. It is depressing, people don’t drink the water. The heat fails. The septic backs up. The air quality is awful. The ceiling actually falls in. Some classrooms are even closed off because of damage. I knew that it was old, but the more I found out about the actual bones of the facility, the more I was convinced that we need to build new now.

Not to mention how long our Board and other community members have been working on this project. I attended meetings about this problem back in 2017. Years of research, resources and energy has been put into determining the MOST economical and efficient solution. We are lucky to have such a dedicated team working tirelessly behind the scenes to guarantee us tax-payers get the biggest bang for our buck.

And now, I want to share my deepest concern, because I have seen it play out first-hand. In 2019, The Prosper Valley School closed because of mold. For three school years, the building sat vacant while remediation was done. During that time, TPVS students and staff had to share space with us at WES; combining teachers and grades on the third floor — a school within a school. After that first year, our classes got bigger. We added universal Pre-K. If that were to happen now, WES would not be able to absorb them. Every space is maxed out.

It is very possible that a major emergency repair is now on its way for our middle school/high school. Just read the Facility Conditions Assessment on the district website. VT-AOE rated us the second worst facility in the state. Our FCI rating is almost 90% (out of a 100%). This stands for the percentage of building systems that have failed, or are at-risk of failure. A rating of 30% + indicates “end of useful life.”

The state of Vermont will not provide funding to renovate a facility that has a FCI of 65% or higher.

So, where will our kids go if and when the current building fails? Bus them to Hartford? Windsor? Rutland? Send millions of dollars over to another school district? Or, set up trailers? Those who can afford it, perhaps they send their children to boarding school? Maybe families decide to sell their homes while the market is high? Making room for second-homeowners, who don’t rely on a school system or a community?

It is the people who choose to live in our towns full-time that make our community. It is the people who choose to work, participate, build relationships, retire, raise families and grandkids, own local businesses, live in our community for generations, and it’s the people who choose to send their kids to our community public school that makes this our community.

No school equals no community. 

I am a teacher in our community, my husband is a firefighter in our community; our three kids attend WCCC [Woodstock Christian Child Care] and Woodstock Elementary. We chose to build roots in Woodstock, Vermont. We chose Woodstock because of the schools, because of this community. Because it is worth it. It is worth voting “Yes” for our community.

There has been much conversation about what members of our community can and cannot afford. As a teacher, parent and taxpayer in this community, I cannot afford to wait.

Education is key for making an informed decision on Article 7.  I am voting “Yes” on March 5th, to save our community from unnecessary costs.

Kristen Hubbell,
Woodstock

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