Water damage puts Vergennes middle school gym out of service

VERGENNES — For the second time this year Vergennes Union High School is looking at operating for a number of months without one of its two gymnasiums.
A sudden downpour that had not been forecast struck on Aug. 15 while workers were re-roofing the VUHS middle school gym as part of the ongoing $7.63 million upgrade of the four Addison Northwest School District schools (see story by clicking).
According to ANWSD Superintendent Sheila Soule and Director of Buildings, Grounds and Safety Ken Sullivan, they had no chance to protect the gym interior from what happened next.
“I heard we had two inches of torrential downpour in an hour,” Sullivan said. “The heavens opened up over the middle school gym while they were working on it, and they just didn’t have time to react.”
On this past Jan. 2 frozen pipes near the larger VUHS high school gym flooded hallways around the gym and about a third of its floor, forcing its closure for January and most of February and forcing basketball games and physical education classes into an adjusted schedule in the middle school gym.
Last week Sullivan, his staff members, contractors and insurance adjusters were just beginning to assess the Aug. 15 rain damage; an insurance firm representative arrived during a Wednesday afternoon interview.
How long the middle school gym will be out of service will depend on how deep the water penetrated the three layers of subsurface under the wood floor. Sullivan said if when the floor is ripped up workers discover the bottom two layers are damaged, the middle school basketball season will almost certainly be compromised.
“With any luck at all we’ll have it back in service for basketball season, or the end of Thanksgiving break. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is we won’t have it back in service until February,” he said. “We won’t really know until we start pulling the floor up how bad it is.”
Sullivan remains hopeful.
“We were without the high school gym floor for the whole basketball season, and that was horrible. And now to go into this year like this, it’s a bummer. But maybe we can pull this off before (the season). There’s a pretty good chance,” he said.
Soule said the impact on PE classes will not be as dramatic as it was this past winter, due to the larger gym remaining in service and the likelihood of better weather.
“It’s fall, it’s warm. Kids can go outside and do other things,” she said.
Sullivan also said things could be worse: The 2001 expansion and renovation of VUHS added a second gym.
“Our school district is extremely fortunate. We do have two gyms,” Sullivan said. “Actually we have five gyms. We have three elementary schools with gyms and two here.”
And, he added, the unfortunate circumstances won’t hit the district and its taxpayers in the wallet.
“Our general contractor has given us their word that whatever insurance doesn’t cover, they’re going to cover,” Sullivan said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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