Several contractors have been hard at work cleaning up the mess on the Montpelier High School’s fields after the July 10 flood, and the school will be ready for the academic year and the fall athletics season.
“We are on track for the start of school,” said Andrew LaRosa, the Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools (MRPS) Director of Facilities.
At Montpelier High School, “flooding is largely taken care of or contained. We are rebuilding our fields in the front of the school and continue to closely monitor air quality throughout MHS,” said Libby Bonesteel, MRPS superintendent.
Half of the MHS practice field needs to be scraped off, “but we’ll be able to use half of it for middle school field hockey,” said LaRosa. “Kyle Bellavance and his crew have done a great job out front, sort of shoveling off the silt and integrating what’s left and aerating they’re going to start seeding,” he said.
LaRosa said the Vermont College of Fine Arts field will be used for middle school soccer. At the high school, he said the game field and field hockey field are “looking great,” and grass will be planted on the baseball field this spring. Next spring, the baseball and softball fields will be dug out and the top layer replaced.
“We’re expecting that the students are going to come into the building and never know that anything happened,” said LaRosa.
“It’s been quite an effort,” said Jim Murphy, MRPS chairperson. “It’s really great that we were able to avoid having this crop of high schools have another disruptive event.”
There have also been talks about renovating Montpelier High School’s track, but with the task of repairing the flood damage and other ideas in circulation, the track project has been put off.
Last fall, the MRPS board approved a plan to renovate the track with a $1.8-million proposal, according to Murphy. He said “the track has not been substantively taken up by the board since the flooding of July 11.” Regarding damage to the current dirt and gravel track, Murphy said “as with most of our grounds, there was some minor damage that will require some repair.”
Bonesteel said “the track is but one very small piece of a much larger conversation regarding our facilities.”
“There has been talk throughout the community about U-32 and MHS merging. Another idea has been raised to move to higher ground at [the Vermont College of Fine Arts]. Moving to the golf course has been floated,” said Jason Gingold, Montpelier High School principal, in a Facebook post on Aug. 14. ”There are pluses and minuses to each of them, and none of the ideas can be considered in the short term.”
“We don’t want to invest a lot of capital into this building if we’re going to be changing direction,” said Paul Carnahan, an attendee at the Aug. 16 school board meeting. “Obviously we want to keep the building functioning and supporting the students that are there,” he added, “but at some point we’ll have to make a decision about what direction we’re going to go in.”
“A bare minimum of functioning while we figure things out,” is an approach that James Rea, who attended the MRPS board meeting, wanted to avoid. “I think the opportunities of those students to express their athletic selves deserves more consideration,” he said.
“I fully recognize that this might mean throwing some money at a school where changes down the road have to be made,” said Rea.
“We also understand the climate change models that show that we are likely to have more of these events in the future,” said Murphy. “I think it is almost certain that we will delay the track project, and probably any other major investments on the ground other than what’s needed to get kids safely into school.”
Murphy said that discussions require “immense community participation and a lot of expertise and a lot of thought.”
Rea said he does not want to stress the students with this “pot of boiling water” discussion, which is also happening on Front Porch Forum. He wants the message from the community to the students to be: “We’ve got you. And we’re going to encase you in a settled and firm situation.”
Murphy said “it’s really been amazing and inspiring to see the staff, and Libby, and Andrew, and Tom and his custodial team, and I know I’m leaving a few names out, really pulled together and they’ve been working pretty tirelessly.”
“Everybody involved has really stepped up,” said LaRosa, adding that he hopes to truly acknowledge everybody when the work is done.