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Experts to evaluate Mt. Abe’s ventilation system

BRISTOL — A comprehensive assessment of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems at Mount Abraham Union High School could begin producing hard data as early as this fall.
Complaints about poor air quality at the school have provoked a great deal of discussion over the past few years, but proposals for improvement have three times gone down in flames, along with the multi-million-dollar renovation bonds into which they were embedded.
This summer the Mount Abe HVAC Citizens Group, a committee of the 5-Town Community Forum (5TCF), has begun to look into the issue.
“Everyone in the five towns is in favor of high-quality air at Mount Abe,” said 5TCF member David Brynn. “But the ventilation upgrade has always been tied to the bond. So we asked, how can we separate this out and think about it?”
After an informal assessment of the building, the HVAC group determined that both the heating system and the air-conditioning in the new addition, which was built in 2004, are “working great.” Less great is the ventilation system, which Brynn said is probably insufficient for Mount Abe’s needs.
In June Mount Abraham Unified School District (MAUSD) officials met with the HVAC group to discuss the issue.
“We all agreed that a comprehensive assessment of the HVAC system at Mount Abe was an important step to take,” said Superintendent Patrick Reen.
After that meeting the HVAC group contacted a Lyndonville building science firm to request a proposal for conducting an initial HVAC systems performance audit and analysis, then forwarded that proposal to the school district.
Reen confirmed that MAUSD Facilities Director Alden Harwood was considering a number of options for conducting an assessment, while working closely with Efficiency Vermont, an energy nonprofit.
“While it is unclear right now which company we will use, what is clear is that we will conduct an assessment of the Mount Abe HVAC system this fall, and we will select a company that is willing to engage with our students throughout the process.”
The assessment’s timing is critical, Brynn said. Problems will be most severe in September and May, when the ventilation system will be under fullest load.
“We’re going to need to move on this in order to capture the data,” he said.
COMMUNITY SURVEY
The 5-Town Community Forum has also been working, in consultation with the MAUSD board, to develop an informal Mount Abe school renovation survey, which they hope will “more clearly define what scope of work residents are willing to support.”
Work on the survey is “in a summer holding pattern,” said Steve Rooney, who is a member of both the 5TCF and the MAUSD board.
The group is still refining survey questions and weighing options for distribution and collection.
Some members of the 5TCF have suggested conducting a broader community survey first, similar to the one in the Addison Central School District, which is seeking public input on its master facilities plan.
A timeline for finalizing and releasing the Mount Abe survey has not been established.
“I expect more conversations will be necessary in 5TCF and MAUSD meetings this fall before anything happens,” Rooney said.
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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