Home News and Features MHS $1.8 Million Track Plans Move Ahead School Board to vote...

MHS $1.8 Million Track Plans Move Ahead
School Board to vote on expenditure Nov. 2

race starting on school track - kids lined up to run
Main Street Middle School track meet at the Montpelier High School track. Photo by John Lazenby.
At its most recent meeting on Oct. 19, the Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools Board confirmed its interest in a proposed $1.8 million track replacement using funds already in the budget.

The return to the original track improvements proposed last spring came after facilities director Andrew LaRosa estimated costs of additional amenities the public had suggested during listening sessions with athletes and interested community members over the summer. Those additional estimates for an artificial turf field and an expanded maintenance facility came to $3.5 million above the original track proposal.

The plan supported by the board calls for installing a six-lane rubber track at the existing Montpelier High School site. Because vehicles cannot be allowed to drive on the improved track surface, the project will require relocation/replacement of the maintenance shed currently near the river. Track and field is a popular activity in Montpelier in part because it provides physical and social opportunities accessible to all students, LaRosa said.

 Board members indicated they were willing to consider funding a new track and new small equipment garage space if funds are available within the current budget.

 “I think we need to see the math first and then decide. And then have the public see the math and help us decide,” said board member Mia Moore.

One member of the public has been vocal about her concerns around spending $1.8 million on a track. Lisa Burns, a Montpelier resident with two kids who have gone through the MRPS schools, told The Bridge she has concerns about spending money on a track rather than directly on education. 

“We are spending our opportunity to address pandemic academic loss and instead we’re spending it on a track,” she said. She said she wasn’t fully aware of the project until a few weeks ago, and wonders why “no other option for this fund balance is even considered.”

The district’s fourth quarter fiscal report will be reviewed at the Nov. 2 board meeting at Montpelier High School at 6:30 p.m., said Superintendent Libby Bonesteel, adding that she expects to document that in this year’s budget there is an adequate fund balance and existing construction budget funds to cover the $1.8 million estimated cost of the revised project. School board members will reach out to voters to get their reactions to the new track proposal. 

With the additional information, the board plans to vote on the revised proposal at its next meeting, on Nov. 2.

LaRosa presented a comprehensive annual facilities and athletics report for fiscal year 2023 to the board. The district received $2,230,394 in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, which was allocated to large renovation projects, and needs to be spent by September 2024, he said. He also said, to date, the district has completed installation of heat pumps and automated temperature control systems at the Roxbury Village School, classroom renovations at Union Elementary School, added sensory and storage spaces at Main Street Middle School, and a put in a new temperature control system and heat pumps at Montpelier High School. 

LaRosa and Bonesteel praised the current custodial supervisors — Tom Allen, Tara Gummere, and Mickey Brkic — for their work maintaining the buildings and completing scheduled projects. 

Overall the district’s buildings are structurally sound, LaRosa said. Window replacements at Union Elementary and Main Street Middle School, plus roof repairs at Main Street and the high school are the only remaining anticipated needs, he said.

LaRosa added that the state of Vermont requires a 3-acre stormwater runoff system, planned for construction in the summer of 2023. He noted that the project should receive significant state funding to cover the estimated $300,000 cost.

Plans for a student school board subcommittee and new ways to recruit, expand, and support student representation on the school board were presented by student representatives Merrick Modun and Zach Henningsen. Board member Emma Bay-Hansen and MHS Director of Flexible Pathways, Matt McLane, are working with Modun and Henningsen on these proposals.