BRATTLEBORO -- Due to minor difficulties encountered during the renovation of the Bellows Falls Middle School, the start of the school year has been postponed from Sept. 4 to Sept. 10.
"It's a big project and you can't know what's underneath everything," said Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Chris Kibbe. "But it's been fairly minimal."
Parents of students who attend the school have or soon will receive written notification and Principal Heidi Moccia initiated "robo calls" to all the homes.
Kibbe apologized for the inconvenience and possible child care expense that the delay may cause for parents.
"It is a pain in the neck for parents, but we're hoping the end product will be well worth it," he said.
Kibbe said there are some advantages to pushing back the opening date.
"The classroom spaces and hallways will have fewer temporary items and will look and feel more finished," he said. "There will also be a little more time for teachers and staff to get their materials ready and for data and telephone systems to be fully installed."
One of the delays was due to the installation of extra sprinklers to meet the fire code.
Kibbe said asbestos mitigation was minimal, and was usually just insulation around pipes.
"Mitigation can get expensive fast, but we're doing pretty well," he said.
During the first week of September, teachers will attend in-service training offsite and the
The project includes a new handicap-accessible entryway, a wood pellet boiler, a solar hot water heater and technology upgrades.
The entryway will also be more secure and will be fully staffed, said Kibbe.
In addition, the school district has been working with the village to lower the sidewalk in front of the building.
"It will give us a negative grade away from the building to assist in drainage," said Kibbe.
Member towns approved a $10.5 million bond for the project to pay for the construction, which included a 10 percent contingency fund for unexpected work, asbestos abatement and various other expenses such as permitting, engineering costs and consultant fees.
"There have been wild rumors that the project is way over budget, but that's just not true," said Kibbe. "We are well within the contingency."
In fact, he said, he expects if everything continues to run smoothly, some of the money may be returned to taxpayers.
Kibbe also said there have been some allegations of labor practice violations committed by the construction company, but he's been told by state officials that the allegations have proven to be unfounded.
He is awaiting the official report, which hasn't yet been released.
Kibbe said there will be an open house of the renovated building, perhaps one or two weeks following the official opening of the school.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @shocked60.