Chester-Andover k-1 classes to move again 4- to 6-week target to reopen damaged school remains

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In another twist in Chester-Andover Elementary School’s troubles, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union has decided that kindergarten and first-grade classes will be moving from the Chester Baptist Church to Green Mountain High on Monday Sept. 17.

And three weeks after the water main leak that precipitated the situation, design engineering and requests for quotes continue with construction work at least a week away.

Teachers and volunteers move out of the Chester Baptist Church on Friday morning. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

On Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Meg Powden announced that kindergarten and first-grade classes would be canceled on Thursday and Friday Sept. 13 and 14 due to “air quality concerns.”

She explained that “historical mold” had been detected in when the air was tested in rooms that classes were being held in the Baptist Church and that she, CAES Principal Katherine Fogg and CAES Maintenance Director Jim Spaulding were exploring their options.

Late in the morning on Thursday, The Telegraph contacted Fogg at the church and she said that she had no information but would keep parents informed by email. Later in the day Powden said they were considering cleaning the church of the historical mold or “looking for other options for locating our children – relocating our children in a different environment.”

“We were alerted to an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Lee Gustafson, a member of the church’s leadership team. “Something will be done, but we don’t have all the information yet. We wanted to be good neighbors in offering use of the building and we want the building to be as welcoming and accessible to everybody as possible.”

Thursday evening, Fogg sent first grade and kindergarten parents a notice that the two grades would be moving into the Green Mountain High School starting Monday, Sept. 17.

This morning, Fogg told The Telegraph that Friday would be spent working with teachers to figure out  where the 90 children in the k-1 classes would be in the high school and moving furniture and supplies from the Baptist Church.

“Monday is going to be a different kind of day,” said Fogg. “We’re thinking of an outside assembly and going to the playground because the teachers are going to be setting up on Monday.”

This morning, CAES Principal Katherine Fogg told The Telegraph that Friday would be spent working with teachers to figure out  where the 90 children in the k-1 classes would be in the high school and moving furniture and supplies from the Baptist Church.

Fogg said that arrangements were being made to have a separate lunch period for the two grades and for K-1 to be let out first at the end of the day. “I’ll be sending out an email with information about the move and instructions for pick up and drop off,” said Fogg

Fogg said she would be setting up a meeting for parents to get more information soon and that she is grateful to the community for all the help people have given the school.

Chester-Andover repairs update

Three weeks ago this morning, and just days before school was to start, a broken bolt on a pipe flange caused a leak that filled the subsurface boiler room at Chester-Andover Elementary School with an estimated 7 feet of water and ruining the electrical panels, boilers and other equipment necessary to running the school.

One of the classrooms flooded by the second water main break. The water came up through the slab in the closet to the left of the photo.

The following Monday, a leak under the building swamped two classrooms and may have undermined a portion of the school’s slab. In an interview with The Telegraph on Aug. 28, Powden and Fogg said they were looking for locations for the school’s 243 students to have classes during the period that repairs would take place, estimating the work to take four to six weeks.

The Telegraph checked in with Powden yesterday to see where the repairs stand and whether the work could still be completed and the children moved back to the elementary school by the first week in October.

“It’s always been four to six weeks, although the electrical might push it out later,” said Powden. “But we don’t have any firm time yet since we don’t have the plans. It depends on who is available and when they can start. The water service is on that timeframe. The one I’m worried about is the electrical service. It might be longer, it might not, we still hope to get our kids back within that four to six week time frame.”

The work ahead

Among the tasks that need to be completed before students can return to the building are the replacement of a 4-inch water supply line with a new 8-inch main, replacement of electrical panels, replacement of the school’s boilers, correcting any undermining that the second leak caused and replacement of  classroom carpeting destroyed by the water.

A crew excavates the main to install a new 8 inch valve that will connect with the new CAES main in the future.

“Earlier this week we received the designs for our water service,” said Powden. “And our business manager, Cheryl Hammond, identified contractors who could do the work and asked them to pick up copies of the design plan.” Powden said contractors were asked to return quotes on the work by noon on Tuesday Sept. 18. The plans were designed by Naomi Johnson of Dufresne Group. Johnson has worked extensively on the town’s water system.

The design for the electrical system – which will be an upgrade from the current system – is due at the end of this week or early next week and Powden hopes to get quotes on that and begin work quickly as well.

As for the possible undermining by the second leak, Powden said that during the second break there was a mix of water and dirt – not just water – coming up from the main and that made them question the integrity of the slab. A structural engineer was contacted and he assessed the situation but has not yet reported back to Powden.

Boilers will also need to be replaced for the school to return to operation and Powden said that they have not yet worked on that issue although Spaulding has been talking with some people about the boilers.

Paying the bills

Insurance will pay for anything that’s damaged by the floods,” said Powden, noting that the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust provides replacement coverage that will take into account any necessary upgrades to satisfy regulations.

But the new water main from the street into the school is not covered by insurance and Powden said they are looking for funding sources to help with that expense. According to Powden, Hammond has had discussions with the Agency of Education and others about funding. The SU has also met with Town Manager David Pisha and Water Superintendent Jeff Holden.

The new water main from the street into the school is not covered by insurance and Superintendent Meg Powden said they are looking for funding sources to help with that expense.

Asked if they had considered hiring a project manager with experience in the areas involved, Powden said “not at this time.”

“Right now I think we’re doing fine, addressing the issues we need to take care of,” said Powden, noting that the that Facilities Committee, which will meet before the Green Mountain Unified School Board meeting on Sept. 18, may decide they want to go in that direction.

“We also have Jim Spaulding, who is very familiar with the building,” said Powden.

The work on CAES will be discussed by the GMUSD Facilities Committee at its meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 18 at the Green Mountain High School Library, 716 Rt. 103 south in Chester. The facilities meeting will be followed by a full board meeting at 6 p.m.


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  1. RAYMOND E MAKUL says:

    Bonneville has a good point. This water mishap has forced investigation and implementation of what was formerly outside the box, namely, consolidation of schools into a single location. What could be saved by permanently moving the elementary school operations to the high school? Taxpayers want to know.

  2. Sandy Stiassni says:

    I’m not a resident in this magic part of Vermont. Grandfather Ernest Stiassni owned a family farm in Andover for many years.

    But if I were a local tax payer, I’d want to ask Two Rivers Supervisory Union Trustees: where was facilities security for these students? Real estate ages fast in New England, pipe flanges break, but students can never be unprotected, as every child is a community’s most valuable resource.

    Once this tragic series of events are mitigated, and Chester-Andover Elementary students return to their studies, I sincerely hope this community takes a more thoughtful look at building maintenance and child safety.

  3. S. Bonneville says:

    So now we have all of Chester school kids in one school. Imagine that. So why do we need CAES? Seems to me we can save a lot of money by having one school.