CAES reopening date uncertain as GMUSD tries to answer questions

GMUSD board meeting on Nov. 15 discussed updates to CAES repairs. Photo by Sharon Huntley.


CHESTER, Vt. – Although repairs at Chester-Andover Elementary School appear to be making slow progress again, during their recent Nov. 15 board meeting, the GMUSD board and TRSU administrators were unwilling to speculate when students and faculty might return to their school. Instead, they spent much of the discussion unraveling missteps in the process.

Repairs to CAES were the result of a flood that occurred in the boiler room of the school caused by a burst pipe. About 48 inches of water resulted in the destruction of a water heater, two boilers, and three electrical panels. Electrical wiring leading from the electrical panel to seven other unaffected panels throughout the school would also need to be replaced. Further testing caused additional flooding and the pipes leading from the school to the street needed to be replaced.

A previous timeline that targeted a Thanksgiving return date was compromised when a Nov. 2 electrical “Meggar” test revealed part of the system had failed and that an electrical conduit was discovered to be full of water and the cable within damaged and needed replacement. Earlier board discussions had specified that the conduits would be replaced along with new 8-inch water pipes when they were laid in trenches leading to the school back in mid-September.

During the water pipe process, the decision to put the conduits in the same trench was abandoned. According to CAES Facilities Director Jim Spaulding, he had spoken with Naomi Johnson, lead project engineer from the Dufresne Group. She indicated that Green Mountain Power had made a recommendation that conduits and water pipes should be separate. That additional trench for the conduits added another $20,000-plus dollars to M&M Construction approved bid. At that point, the decision was made to abandon the conduit and make it part of Phase 2, scheduled for the summer.

Now that the conduits have become a necessity, causing some additional costs and significant delays, the question of who cancelled installing the conduits in the first phase of the project has come under scrutiny.

When asked by the board who made that decision Spaulding answered, “I do not have that answer as to who made the decision, all I know is one day it was not going in and they were filling the ditch.”

Confusion continued amongst the board members and TRSU administrators on who made the decision. Board members shared their frustration that they were fielding questions from Chester residents and didn’t have the answers.

“The board didn’t make that decision outside of any meeting. I’ll tell you that much,” said GMUSD board chair Marilyn Mahusky.

To help answer that question, board and administrators will look at the recordings of past meetings on Okemo Valley TV and speak to Naomi Johnson about how and by whom the decision was made.

Superintendent Meg Powden offered her perspective on the focus during past meetings. “I just want to remind the board though at the time when we were talking about it, this wasn’t work that seemed imminent. We were focused on doing the work that needed to be done to get our students and staff and faculty back in the school.”

To bring board members up to speed on progress, Jim Spaulding confirmed that the conduits were now in place and he said that the electricians feel they will possibly be ready to have at least one boiler hooked up by the middle of this week, just prior to Thanksgiving. According to Spaulding, “By Wednesday of next week, we should have power to the building, water hooked up, and one boiler working.” Meanwhile he has been monitoring temperatures throughout the school to make sure nothing freezes.

TRSU has their next meeting scheduled for Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Roost at Fletcher Farms.

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