Letter to the Editor: Maybe Middlebury’s approach would work at Mount Abe

My family moved to Middlebury in 1994 where I then attended MUJHS (grade 7-8) and MUHS (grade 9-12) in one building for 6 years. As a teenage student new to the area I was oblivious to the plans for improving the school setting for Addison Central students until the work was nearly starting. I went on summer vacation after 8th grade, and returned to a very changed and still changing high school. MUMS was due to be completed for the next school year. Looking back, the project, while expansive, apparently did not cover all potential concerns in the building.
A few years after I graduated the high school auditorium received a complete overhaul. Later the cafeteria and adjoining kitchen and bathrooms (for visitor use) received upgrades, and remodels incrementally. They continued to only have a lift in the 4-story H-wing well into the 2000’s until they could finally add an elevator.
I can only suspect that some of these later updates were at one point on Addison Central’s wish list for the high school renovations in 1996-97, only to be cut and addressed at later dates. Some notable changes included:
•  The library moving against a southern wall to turn the pathway from the cafeteria to the H-wing into a hallway between the library and gymnasium. This made for a much quieter, albeit smaller library. Some resources moved to the new MUMS library, though.
•  Closing in what had been out door walkways between the main building and the U-shaped C, D, & E-wings. This allowed for many lockers to be moved out of crowded hallways and away from classrooms.
•  Another benefit of connecting the two structures was the creation of two student lounge spaces. The more notable lounge was just south of the administrative offices and housed numerous couches and tables to be used during times one did not have class. The close proximity to the cafeteria made it a welcoming, less noisy location to eat lunch.
I played basketball in grades 7-9 and remember as a freshman having practices in the elementary school gym. It was not a full size court, but gave us a decent space and time to have practices. Would a similar option be available for Mt. Abe. athletes until your space needs are addressed?
All this being said, I do not know the budget spent on improving MUHS and building the new MUMS structure. They made it work and even made improvements to Mary Hogan Elementary School a few years later. I know Addison Northeast District has their own set of problems to solve. I have not been in your building since my high school days. My recommendation is to determine what is more essential for your building at present and address those issues in one big project.
If you can determine some items that are more wish list and could be attained over time (perhaps with retaining your extra maintenance budget for a while after renovating), I would recommend making a plan to take that route. One example is to perhaps replace seats and/or stage flooring in the Auditorium, but wait on a full remodel for a few years. Other examples could be possibly building your outdoor eating space and transportation circle around the building at later dates. I realize delaying some aspects would result in a larger overall expense, but it might be necessary to avoid another No vote on improving your School.
I wish your District the best of luck in finding a resolution to this longstanding issue, and hope my words help in some small way.
Ian Ross

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