By HARRIETTE BRAINARD
BRANDON — Residents in the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union likely will decide through a November vote whether to approve a $10 million renovation of the Otter Valley Union High School.
The OVUHS board on Tuesday night reviewed plans for a major renovation and construction project that would help the 46-year-old school meet current educational requirements and fix some ongoing issues.
“The renovation has really nothing to do with the increase or decrease of student population, it all has to do with quality of the school,” said board chair Connie Carroll. “The issues we are facing would be apparent regardless of the population.”
After discussing plans presented by FNB Architects of Rutland and asking for some additional information, the school board will vote on Oct. 12 on whether to put the plan out for a district-wide vote on Nov. 7.
The estimated cost of the project is $10.2 million, but with the state covering 30 percent of the cost, residents of the school district would be voting on a $7 million bond. The school board would like to begin the project in May 2007 and complete it by the beginning of the school year in September 2007.
The plan would upgrade some rooms as suggested by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the organization that accredits area high schools, as well as add a new gym with a curved roof, new offices in front of the building and a new entryway with a canopy.
The entrance has been the source of much concern as it is difficult for visitors to detect where the entrance is. In addition, it has been very difficult to monitor who enters and leaves the building, board members said. The new entrance would provide a much larger covered space out front where students can wait for parents.
Some of the other renovations and additions in the plan presented this week include a new shop area, new tech room, renovated music room, new nurse’s office and more bathrooms. There would be updates to the electrical system throughout, a new treatment plant for the septic system, a new fuel tank and a new roof.
In the spring of 2005, NEASC identified several building related needs that the renovation would address. The group said the entire library would need to be closed to other students when a class needs the computer lab, and the use of converted closets without fire alarms and ventilation as classroom space needed to be addressed.
The two items that prove to be more costly will be the new gym, as there are 12 sports teams competing for game and practice time in one gymnasium, as well as an upgrade to the mechanical systems. The new gym would have restrooms that can be accessible and locked from both the inside and outside, providing visiting teams with restrooms without entering the building.
Site improvements and renovations to classroom space as well as the new gym facility are key to the project, as they will serve to separate the middle school program from the upper school. This is an important feature for the administration as well as the students and the parents. The current configuration creates frequent interaction between middle school and high school students.
“One of the most important objectives we have is separating the interaction of the middle school and the high school,” Carroll said.
Another feature would be a tunnel that goes underneath the driveway around the back of the school. Students would use this to go directly to the playing fields from the gym without crossing a road. Due to the nature of the existing structure, traffic and bus flow has always been an issue, and this is being addressed along with this renovation and addition, board members said.
During the spring of 2005 the board hired NBF Architects to conduct a facilities analysis of the entire physical plant and related systems, which was submitted to the Vermont Department of Education last December and revised in February. There has also been additional data that has been used to develop the scope of the work for this construction project.
Otter Valley Principal Dana Cole-Levesque, architect John Berryhill, and school board members Carroll and Rob Naylor last Friday met with state officials, who gave preliminary indications that they would approve the full project.
This is not the first time the Brandon school has been updated. A library was added in 1987, and there was an arts addition in 1991 and the “East Addition” in 1995.