School plans to remove temporary classrooms (7/23/09)

July 23, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Officials with the Williston School District will go before the Development Review Board next month to discuss a master plan for the temporary classrooms at Allen Brook School.

A temporary building permit for the classrooms expires in February, and school administrators are asking the board to extend the permit by six months until August 2010. A planned reconfiguration of the school district in 2010 will make the classrooms obsolete at that time.

Senior Planner Matt Boulanger said school officials are scheduled to meet with the Development Review Board on Aug. 25.

Last month, the School Board voted to reconfigure the school district for the 2010-2011 school year. The temporary classrooms will no longer be needed under the new configuration, referred to as Option A.

“It was wonderful we could make that happen,” School Board Chairwoman Darlene Worth said.

Allen Brook students first moved into the modular classrooms during the 2002-2003 school year. The classrooms were meant to be a temporary solution for increasing enrollment until another wing could be built on the school.

As enrollment leveled off and then decreased, the district decided against building an Allen Brook addition. Instead, the Development Review Board granted a second temporary building permit for the classrooms in 2006. According to the 2006 permit’s conditions of approval, school officials were to return to the board in February 2008 with a master plan of what the district would do with the site.

School officials did not meet with the Development Review Board until September of last year.

The Development Review Board appeared reticent in past meetings to agreeing to another temporary building permit. Administrators looked into making the rooms a more permanent structure at Allen Brook, moving them to another part of the school building or building another permanent addition.

Option A will place pre-kindergarten through second grade classrooms at Allen Brook, while grades three through eight will be at Williston Central School. The move reduces the student population at Allen Brook, bringing the building back to its capacity without the temporary classrooms.

District Principal Walter Nardelli said he’s heard varying opinions on Option A; some people who question the merits of the configuration still support the removal of the Allen Brook trailers.

“For most parents in Williston, it does make sense,” Nardelli said. “People realize there’s an educational benefit and an advantage in removing the mobile classrooms.”

Once the trailers are removed, plans call for returning the site to previous conditions. The ground will be top soiled, seeded and mulched. An existing sidewalk will be extended to improve student access from the school to the bus stop.

Nardelli and Worth said this option should appeal to some members of the Development Review Board who have made it clear in past meetings that they would not approve another building permit.

Nardelli also said another school in Chittenden County is interested in purchasing the classrooms from Williston. Charlotte is looking to make renovations to its elementary and middle school, Charlotte Central School, starting in 2010 and would need temporary classrooms to house students while construction is under way.

“It could work out very well for Charlotte and Williston,” Worth said.