Oct. 9, 2008
By Tim Simard
The Williston School Board made a case to the town’s Selectboard to keep the modular classrooms at Allen Brook School if the current permit is not renewed in two years.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Allen Brook School’s modular classrooms, pictured to the right in the above photo, currently hold most of the school’s kindergarten classes. The permit for the temporary classes is due to expire in February 2010.
The two boards met on Wednesday, Oct. 1 to discuss different town and school issues.
School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said the board, administration and staff of Chittenden South Supervisory Union would develop the master site plan for Allen Brook School — a condition of the 2006 trailer permit extension — that was due to the Development Review Board in February. The permit for the trailers is due to expire in February 2010.
The School Board met with the Development Review Board on Sept. 23 to discuss the future of the classrooms. The Development Review Board reiterated that it had to receive the master site plan before it would discuss the future of the modular rooms. Members of the board were not enthusiastic about renewing the permit for a third time.
But the School Board says it needs the additional space.
“We need them — we’re full,” Worth told the Selectboard. “We don’t have any spare space to put our kids.”
Worth told the Selectboard that the current economic climate and a moratorium on state funds for school construction projects would make a bond vote for an addition to Allen Brook School unfeasible.
At the Sept. 23 Development Review Board meeting, Chairman Kevin McDermott mentioned that if his board denies the permit extension, the School Board might be able to appeal to the Selectboard. Worth brought up the topic with the Selectboard, although there was some disagreement as to whether it was a possibility.
Town Manager Rick McGuire said the School Board would have to appeal to the state’s Environmental Court. The Selectboard would then represent the town during the appeal process and be able to weigh in on decisions at that time.
The Vermont Environmental Court generally hears appeals from town boards and commissions, as well as appeals on Act 250 decisions.
“The DRB pretty much operates on its own,” McGuire said. “The Selectboard would not like to be in the position to overrule the DRB.”
Worth said the School Board was looking for “good ideas” on the subject and would listen to any recommendations from the Selectboard. Board member Ted Kenney said during his time as a School Board member, he had looked at other locations in the community to see where students could be housed. Worth said that was a possibility, although she said she didn’t want to see the district’s students spread throughout town.
Selectboard member Chris Roy suggested the School Board hire consultants who know the inner workings of developments to help develop the master site plan. Worth said the board was looking into that possibility.
The School Board also showed the Selectboard the current enrollment numbers for the year. And while kindergarten numbers are up, in part because of the first year of the full-day program, all around numbers have dipped from this time last year.
District Principal Walter Nardelli provided the information to the Selectboard. In September 2007, the district had 1,158 students enrolled. As of last month, the district had 1,153 students.
Worth said future projections show Williston undergoing a slow, but steady, decline in school enrollment numbers, although future housing projects might change that trend.
“We know that we have large developments coming up,” Worth said. “The DRB let us know that at the last meeting.”
Worth said although the school population is slowly declining, the use of modular classrooms would still be needed for the foreseeable future.