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Four towns to vote on fixing school in Brattleboro

Information meeting for Academy School project set for May 6; Brattleboro, Dummerston, Putney, and Guilford to vote on May 11

BRATTLEBORO—Voters of the Windham Southeast School District will decide on Tuesday, May 11 whether to authorize borrowing up to $2 million to renovate the Academy School in West Brattleboro, which serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The proposed renovations include measures to improve indoor air quality, replacing windows in 14 classrooms, reconfiguring a classroom to support small group learning, bulldozing a temporary modular unit, and building a 2,000-square-foot addition.

In a press release, engineering and architecture firm Stevens & Associates of Brattleboro described the school building as “bursting at the seams.”

Should those improvements — in the works for three years — be approved, “we’ll be able to spend more quality time with the students when we no longer lose 10 to 15 minutes of each one-hour block bundling them up and escorting them to and from the remote modular unit,” noted principal Kelly Dias.

“And students in our special education groups will be much better served when they don’t struggle to hear their teacher over the voices of other groups working in the same space,” she added.

“This challenging time has confirmed the school’s preexisting challenges, including uncomfortable classrooms due to outdated windows, and a lack of appropriate space for the customized special education needs of some students,” wrote Stevens & Associates personnel.

An online informational meeting for residents of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, and Putney will happen on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m.

Information on how to attend the online meeting is available at bit.ly/611-academy.

Hope that grants will offset building costs

If voters in the five towns authorize the spending, construction would begin this fall, said WSESU Business Manager Frank Rucker at an April school board meeting.

He anticipates finding enough grant funding to lower the amount of money the district will need to borrow.

“I’m being very assertive in applying for federal grants,” Rucker told the board. “I do expect [the project] would be less than the $2 million that we’d need to borrow.”

As part of the planning process, the school board directed Stevens & Associates to consult with specialists to “ensure that the work is done in a way that optimizes energy efficiency, daylighting, health, and overall sustainability in a cost-effective manner,” said the firm in a press release.

The project team is exploring a variety of building technologies such as glare-reducing glazing products that also maximize daylight in classrooms, heat-recovery ventilation that provides fresh air circulation, and low-impact construction materials.

“Good daylighting and acoustics are the two biggest contributors to a great learning environment,” noted sustainability consultant Nadav Malin of BuildingGreen.

“The team working on this project is setting a great example for future projects throughout the district,” he added.

The renovation project falls under the auspices of the WSESD. This means that while the building is in Brattleboro, legal voters of all four district towns will vote to decide whether to authorize the funding.

Voting by Australian ballot takes place on Tuesday, May 11. A sample copy of the ballot is available at bit.ly/611-ballot. Polls are open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The four polling places:

Brattleboro: Windham Regional Career, 80 Atwood St.

Dummerston: Town Office, 1523 Middle Rd., Dummerston Center.

Guilford: Town Office, 236 School Rd.

Putney: Putney Fire Station, 21 Carl Snyder Dr.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #611 (Wednesday, May 5, 2021). This story appeared on page A1.

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