BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. –There is a feasibility plan in place to explore the possibility of putting a new building adjacent to the Bellows Falls Union High School that would house a new superintendent’s office and new early education program.
The Windham Northeast Supervisory Union will head an evaluation of a recommendation to utilize up to $5 million of a federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund to build a new office for the superintendent of schools and the region’s early education program.
“While we have developed the concept of an Early Learning Childhood Center and we have mapped out what we believe could happen financially, we wanted an independent evaluation of the project,” said current superintendent Andrew Haas in a recent interview. “The business plan and feasibility study, we believe, will support not only the need for such a project, but show that it can be sustainable and not add to the WNESU budget.”
In a recent meeting, the supervisory union did not accept the recommendation of superintendent Haas to hire an architectural firm to create plans for the building, after Haas had collected three plan bids from two Vermont firms and one from Massachusetts. The supervisory union agreed that it needs to do more about the project and the ESSER federal funds program before making such a commitment.
The ESSER committee in the Rockingham district is made up of teachers, administrators, school directors, and local parents, and have recommended that a new building be constructed, possibly adjacent to the Bellows Falls Union High School building. However, the school board is also looking at the possibility of housing the two offices in an existing district building. The plan is to first do a thorough “walk through” of all existing buildings next month, in order to determine if it is feasible to find existing building space for both or either of the offices. There is also a concern about the cost of the construction and the impact on local taxes.
The initial concept is that the early education center would house programs from daycare to Pre-K, and would be a combination of private funding for the daycare and public funding for the Pre-K programs.
“The addition of the central office, which has been discussed as part of the plan, would save the tax payers a minimum of $45,000 a year in lease money alone,” Andrew Haas added. “We have three years left on our current lease and know that this type of project will take time to construct and finish. The Supervisory Union and Grounds Committee with be walking through all of our buildings on Sept. 7. There has been discussion that because enrollment is down, there may be space within our buildings to house offices.”
Haas has also indicated that the Vermont Agency of Education has given conceptual approval to using the ESSER funds for the early education center and new superintendent’s office.