New Mount Abe repair plan to go before voters next year

BRISTOL — The new Renovation Committee has begun work toward formulating a plan to renovate Mount Abraham Union High School.
The committee is charged with determining the needs of the aging facility and with shaping “a potential bond measure to go before voters in the 2017-2018 school year.” It’s been given until August to make a recommendation to ANeSU Superintendent Patrick Reen.
“This is a building that the community takes a lot of pride in,” said committee Chair Kris Pearsall. “But some of the furnishings and some of the conditions of things don’t really reflect that pride that the community has. And we need to address that.”
The 17-member committee began meeting on March 22, and on April 17 held its fourth get-together, where members considered teacher priorities.
Principal Jessica Barewicz presented the results of a survey asking the school’s teachers to rank nine different focuses for renovation.
Top of the list: Improve natural lighting, which 86 percent of the faculty ranked as a high priority. The need for better ventilation, cooling and heating were also high priorities.
Faculty ranked the following as high priorities:
•  Improve natural light, 86 percent
•  Make the front entrance more welcoming, including front office, 62.8 percent
•  Remove tandem rooms, 55.7 percent
•  Move tech ed rooms, 47.8 percent
•  Renovate locker rooms, 44 percent
•  Add a new gym, 40 percent
•  Move library to the front of the building and/or significantly renovate the library, 32.4 percent
•  Renovate auditorium, 29.6 percent
Committee member Troy Paradee noted that the top priority — better light and better air — are the same as when school renovations were considered in 2014. Paradee is the only committee member who served on the previous committee, which recommended the $32 million renovation package that voters rejected in 2014. Paradee is a Bristol resident who also teaches at Champlain Valley Union High School.
Committee member Bob Patterson of Lincoln questioned whether teachers were aware of different renovation needs throughout the building and whether teachers might only advocate for improvements that affected their own teaching areas.
Barewicz countered that it was important to value the faculty priorities as presented.
“Our process can’t be to invalidate what teachers have told us,” Barewicz said.
Committee members agreed that it was important throughout the process to solicit feedback from faculty, students and the community.
At last Monday’s meeting, the committee also roughed out overarching goals for its work. These included:
•  Addressing deferred maintenance
•  Prioritizing access and functionality over aesthetics
•  Creating flexibility to accommodate future needs
•  Identifying under-utilized spaces
•  Being fiscally responsible to the community
•  Accomplishing all of this in a transparent manner
“The goal of this renovation is to directly improve the teaching and learning of Mount Abraham by honoring the financial investment to match the diverse needs of an educated community as identified by faculty, students and community members,” Barewicz said.
The committee decided to give itself until its next meeting, set for May 2, to reflect on those proposed goals and finalize or amend them.
Eleven voting members and six non-voting members serve on the committee.
Chair Kris Pearsall of Bristol and committee member Otto Funke of Monkton are both serve on the ANeSU and Mount Abe boards. Two voting (Dustin Corrigan, PE and health, and Devin Wendel, athletic and activities director) and two nonvoting (teachers Matt Brown and Chris Nezin) members represent Mount Abe faculty.
Voting members drawn from the community are:
•  Troy Paradee, Bristol.
•  Bob Patterson, Lincoln.
•  Denise Dalton, Monkton.
•  Tom Adams, Dennis Casey, Brad Johnson and Dan Nugent of Starksboro.
Nonvoting members are Superintendent Reen, Principal Barewicz, Facilities Director Alden Harwood and Mount Abe Facilities Manager Mike Kenyon.
Pearsall said that the make up of the committee brought in differing kinds of expertise relevant to the renovation.
“We’ve got Tom with his electrical background and knowledge of the building. We have Bob with his knowledge of fire and safety code and AD requirements. We’ve got Troy, who’s not only an educator he’s also a parent and a community member who was on the original committee so he brings a huge sense of history with him.
“We’ve been really fortunate that we have the community members that we do and that so many stepped up to take part in this work,” Pearsall said.
The committee devoted its first meeting to a tour of the Mount Abe building led by Harwood and Kenyon. The tour took in the whole school, checking out the cafeterias, custodial space, gym, pool, wood and metal shops, science facilities, music room, library, wrestling room, locker rooms, middle school wing and other spaces.
The tour “opened their eyes to the needs of the facility,” said Pearsall.
The committee had the tour filmed by NEAT-TV, and has posted the tour on its Facebook page: tinyurl.com/mc22mkf.
The next two meetings were spent first preparing for and then listening to Burlington architect Lee Dore, who brought the 2017 committee up to speed on the work that lead to the 2014 renovation proposal. Dore’s firm won a competitive process involving 13 firms to act as the designer/consultant on the previous renovation proposal.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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