LMHUUSD makes BRHS building decision

LUDLOW, Vt. – Ludlow-Mount Holly Unified Union School District meeting May 13 focused largely on the soon-to-be-vacated Black River High School building and the removal of the buildings contents. Black River High School and Middle School is slated to close at the end of this school year in June of 2020.

BRHS and Ludlow Elementary Principal Karen Trimboli advised the board that they were going through the contents of the school and had claimed many items and furniture for both Ludlow Elementary School and Mount Holly Elementary School. Of the furniture and other items that are left, specifically science lab tables and equipment, lockable storage cabinets, pottery wheels, and filing cabinets, she felt those items might be very useful for Green Mountain Union High School.

Trimboli noted that many former Black River students will now be attending GMUHS and that she was hoping to gift those items to Green Mountain so the students would continue to benefit from the donation. Superintendent Meg Powden also pointed out that four teachers and a guidance counselor were now transferring to Green Mountain next year as well.

Board member Dan Buckley brought up the point that from a taxpayer’s standpoint, they should charge for the items whether it was from GMUHS or Black River Independent School, who had expressed interest in the equipment. BRIS committee member Marissa Selleck confirmed that BRIS was interested in purchasing available furniture and equipment.

Buckley noted they would not get top dollar but that taxpayers should “get something out of it.” He later suggested that someone take pictures of the items and write up a description so that people might bid during an online auction. Powden and TRSU Finance Director Cheryl Hammond said they had not been able to find a service that did that.

Powden disagreed with Buckley’s assessment and said that there was a difference between a transfer of equipment between public schools within the same school district versus an independent school purchasing items.

Trimboli said that Green Mountain had already submitted a list of desired items and even after gifting those items to GMUHS, there would still be a “boat load of other stuff” available.

Board member Katie Hollebeek suggested that student desks be offered to current students who might benefit from additional workspace at home. Powden agreed that was a good idea.

Of primary concern for Trimboli was that time was running out and they had only until mid-July to remove everything. Buckley expressed concern that he did not want to see a huge expense for disposal, which received widespread agreement.

Powden asked that the board delegate to the administration the best way to empty and dispose of the contents. Both Powden and Trimboli indicated that they wanted to be able to make decisions without any second-guessing. In the end, the board agreed with the request.

Selleck indicated that BRIS would likely look to use only one floor of the building to start. BRIS is launching a pilot program with 14 students in the fall as they continue to fundraise and complete all requirements for the State’s Agency of Education’s approval for an independent school. BRIS still has yet to finalize their agreement with the Ludlow Selectboard although that board has at least agreed to BRIS occupancy beginning in August.

The TRSU is finalizing the purchase and sales agreement on the building with the town, which is slated to close at the end of June, and has negotiated an easement from the town for access by LMHUUSD.

There will be a Black River High School graduation happening Saturday, June 13 at 10 a.m. As of yet, the details of what that will look like are yet to be determined.

Powden reminded teachers that all electronic devices distributed to students would need to be returned to the TRSU for maintenance over the summer. The exception to that is that Black River students are able to keep their Chromebooks.

Mount Holly Principal Craig Hutt Vader updated the board on the ongoing improvement of the school water quality with recent PFAS testing coming in at 15 ppt, below the 20 ppt threshold. Recently, a master plumber came in and used a citrus-based cleaner throughout the water system, which should improve the water quality even more. The state requires four quarters of below threshold testing so they will be using bottled water when classes resume in the fall. The cost of the water improvement project is estimated at $10,000, well below the original projection.

The next LMHUUSD meeting is Wednesday, June 10 via Zoom.

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