Former BRHS building to house childcare hub as well as BRIS

Town manager Scott Murphy announced new tenants in the former Black River High School
Town manager Scott Murphy announced new tenants in the former Black River High School. Photo provided

LUDLOW. Vt. – Two separate education tenants, including a childcare center run by the TRSU afterschool program leader, were approved to take over the first and second floors of the former Black River High School building by the Ludlow Selectboard at a special remote meeting Monday, Aug. 31.

The town of Ludlow purchased the building for one dollar from the Two Rivers Supervisory Union last year after Black River High School closed. The town is now responsible for approving and managing occupancy as well as maintenance.

The Black River Independent School was approved to occupy the second floor of the building with a two-year lease and an option by the board for year three. Town Manager Scott Murphy is finalizing details of the agreement, which will include zero rent the first year but will require monthly payments in year two. The town has also agreed to clean the carpet of the second floor former library area but will not pay for ongoing janitorial services. Other details still being finalized include whether utilities may be waived for the first year, and if BRIS and the town will share Wi-Fi expenses.

Although formal turnover of the building just happened a week ago due to delays in the closing between the attorneys of the TRSU and the town of Ludlow, BRIS has been able to access the building to prepare for school opening next week as they launch a 14-student pilot program in this first year while finalizing state approval for their broader independent school charter.

TRSU afterschool program director Venissa White has requested to lease the first floor on a month-to-month basis for a childcare center in response to Gov. Phil Scott’s push to establish 73 childcare hubs throughout the state. The program will serve 70-75 kids on Wednesdays, which is the established remote learning day for all TRSU schools. The schedule may change in the future depending on whether more remote learning days are needed due to flexible response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first day for the program is Wednesday, Sept. 16.

The board approved for Murphy to work out lease details with White in the next few days. White requested a monthly rental cost immediately for her submission to the state childcare hub program, which is providing grants to cover initial startup fees and operational costs.

White is also looking to secure a designated separate entrance for the first floor to simplify contact tracing and more easily coordinate sanitizing efforts. Kendra Rickerby, newly appointed head of school for BRIS, said she would be happy to rework their access to help accommodate White’s request for a separate entrance.

Board member Heather Tucker made the comment that back when they first worked on the feasibility study for the building, their hope was to see an independent school and childcare in the building. “It’s an ideal situation so I’m very happy to see this happening,” she said.

The next Ludlow Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Heald Auditorium in the Town Hall.

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