Good news at Johnson Elementary School: Water damage isn’t nearly as bad as feared in the shared space that serves as a gym, lunchroom and music classroom.

When repairs began in mid-September, it quickly became apparent that damage to the cafeteria side of the large shared space was almost nonexistent, principal David Manning told the Lamoille North school board Sept. 23. That meant disruptions of student meals and music classes would be minimal.

The gym portion of the shared space needs about $37,200 in water-damage repairs, but the district is responsible only for covering its $2,500 deductible; insurance will pay the rest.

In other business, the school board approved a storage shed in Eden, hired two employees, ruminated on the difficulty of finding school bus drivers, and heard a dream about a running track.

The board oversees elementary schools in Belvidere, Eden, Hyde Park, Johnson and Waterville, plus Lamoille Union Middle and High schools and the Green Mountain Technology and Career Center.

The board meets again Monday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m. at Green Mountain Tech.

Eden storage shed

The board unanimously approved a new lean-to-style storage shed at Eden Central School.

Nathan Felch Carpentry will build the 10-by-26-foot cold-storage shed; it was the only bidder, at $58,300. The shed will be constructed off the back of the gym, with access from the gym and an exterior garage door. Bids were sought from four contractors, but only Felch submitted a proposal.

“There’s a lot of business out there right now” for contractors, said Lamoille North business manager Deb Clark. “It’s just hard to get carpenters and contractors.”

Lamoille North facilities manager Dylan Laflam recommended the board accept Felch’s bid. Laflam said Felch has done high-quality work for the district in the past and his bid was less than Laflam had expected.

Access to the shed will be available from inside the gym and via an outside garage door. The construction money will come from a capital reserve fund set aside specifically for repairs to Eden Central School, Clark said. More than $230,000 is available in that fund.

Eden Principal Melinda Mascolino told the board she and her staff need most of the space for storage as soon as possible. The shed will be finished this fall, Clark told the board.

New hires

The board approved hiring two new staff members, a custodian at Lamoille Union and a part-time art teacher for Waterville Elementary School.

The new custodian, John Bailey, will be paid $15.98 per hour to work at Lamoille Union Middle and High School. Bailey previously worked for the district for six years and left on good terms to take a similar job at Bishop John A. Marshall School.

The new art teacher, Suzanne Blais, will be paid $10,604 per year to teach art one day per week at Waterville Elementary. Blais now teaches art four days a week at a school in Essex, but is free on Fridays, the day art is scheduled to be taught at Waterville. Principal Jan Epstein has worked with Blais in the past and told the board “she can really enrich our program.”

The district is also looking for a new driver education teacher to replace Scott Brown, who resigned.

Bus driver search

Superintendent Cat Gallagher said it’s been tough to find enough drivers to cover school-bus routes across the district.

Ads for drivers have been posted repeatedly, Gallagher said, but “we’re just not getting any hits.”

Now, “we’re thinking about doing more outreach to our senior citizens,” Gallagher said. They’re likely to be available, can mentor students as well, and are “longstanding members of the community.”

“We’ve found that when drivers know and understand the communities, it’s a better, more fulfilling experience for kids and drivers,” she said.

Also considered was reaching out to Northern Vermont University-Johnson students, as bus routes “would work beautifully with their schedules,” Gallagher said, but the cost of insuring young drivers rules that idea out.

Another possibility is to structure some school jobs so they combine bus-driving with other duties, as full-time jobs are more attractive.

And, the schools have been reaching out to businesses that often have part-time staff members who might be looking for additional work.

Track at Lamoille

Lamoille Union has a storied history in track and field, but has never had its own track, with athletes training on other athletic fields or at Peoples Academy.

A group of current athletes hopes to change that.

“One of the things they’ve mentioned is a request that the board consider building a track,” Gallagher confirmed. The students say the track could be used by anyone, and there are no socioeconomic barriers to using it.

Gallagher said Laflam is gathering basic information about building a track, including costs and possible locations. Once he has enough information, “Dylan will discuss what his research is showing,” she said.

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