GUEST COLUMN: CVU grounds—changes over time and the future

By Kevin Riell and members of the CVU School Board

In 1961, members of Hinesburg, Williston, Charlotte and Shelburne townships formed committees to discuss a union high school. Originally, the idea was to provide a simple and practical structure to accommodate an initial body of 750 students, thus unionizing the high schools for grades nine through 12 in these townships. Barbara Snelling, who has held a variety of positions in the state of Vermont including serving as lieutenant governor for two terms, played a major role in the establishment of CVU and served as its first school board chairwoman. Champlain Valley Union High School was formed in 1964.

Since the inception of the union high school, CVU has gone through many physical transitions and facelifts. The first major addition and renovation occurred in 1978 with the creation of the Lucien Lambert Library. Then, in 1981, 10 additional classrooms were added along with architecturally designed skylights. From 1993 to 1995, a science wing, additional parking, an athletic field upgrade, mini gym, direction center and student center were added to help with ever-increasing student enrollment and educational reform. The most expensive upgrade (18 to 19 million) occurred between 2003 and 2005, and included the addition of square footage and renovations to new and existing space. The project helped to create a freshman core “D” wing, gymnasium, wood chip boiler, all-weather track, library, learning center, fitness center, cafeteria, classrooms, staff offices and locker rooms. A one million dollar upgrade to the CVU auditorium took place in 2008-2009, supported by generous private donation and community approved monies from the construction fund.

Over the last few years, CVU has made a concerted effort to reduce energy consumption. Most recently, CVU students of the Environmental Action Club have been involved in composting, recycling and participating in the 10% Energy Challenge (Efficiency Vermont). Regarding major facility renovations as it relates to energy consumption, the following projects have been done:

In 2005, HVAC systems energy recovery wheels and software were installed (recoup heat sent back into the building). All major hydraulic pumps were installed with variable frequency drives (speeding and slowing down the pumps based on need).

Currently, GMP, along with CVU, initiated an $80,000 retrofit to our current lighting system. Anticipated savings will cover the cost of the project through GMP. This will be completed by early September.

In addition, CVU has changed over to a town-fed Vermont gas line to replace our oil burner (used as a back-up system to our wood chip boiler).

This ongoing commitment to the CVU facility has created numerous opportunities for our students to excel, as evidenced by many state championships, academic awards and arts performances. It should be noted that CVU also strives to provide opportunities for the community at large. Community members and local clubs have benefited tremendously from the fitness and health equipment (including the track and gymnasiums) and facility upgrades have also provided more offerings in CVU Access (adult education/enrichment programming). The auditorium, gymnasium and other upgrades also offer opportunities for residents to avail themselves of quality athletic, arts and theatre programming that feature CVU students.

How are facility maintenance/improvement projects prioritized? CVU currently has a five-year maintenance plan in place, with discussions under way to extend the plan to 10 years. This plan is reviewed and updated on an annual basis, allowing CVU to plan ahead for major expenses (i.e., roof, mechanical, building upgrades and grounds). It was this process, for example, that led to recent discussions on the need to address maintenance concerns regarding our playing fields. These discussions initiated a study, completed by Gale Associates that included an evaluation of artificial turf fields as an alternative to the renovation of our existing natural turf. After annual review of the plan, it is sometimes necessary to defer maintenance based on prioritization of needed items and unanticipated budget expenditures. This assessment is always done with the safety of the community in mind, first and foremost. The five- to 10-year plan helps to guide us in our budget process and gives us a facility that contributes to the educational program and evolving needs of both our students and the broader CVU community.

Kevin Riell is CVU’s director of student activities. Contact information for Williston’s representatives to the CVU board can be found on page 6 of the Williston Observer.