BELLOWS FALLS -- In a move likely to frustrate parents, students and teachers alike, the first day of classes at Bellows Falls Middle School has been postponed for the second time due to renovations.
Originally slated for Aug. 28, the first day of school was rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 10, but failure to pass an inspection has forced School Superintendent Chris Kibbe and BFMS Principal Heidi Moccia to move the expected date to Monday, Sept. 17. Kibbe said, however, if everything goes well for state inspectors in the next few days, students might be back in their classrooms by this Wednesday.
The school serves 257 children in grades 5 through 8, Moccia said.
Kibbe said there are several inspections needed to get a certificate of occupancy from the Vermont Department of Public Safety. He said there were two different inspections conducted on Thursday -- one on the sprinkler system, which passed, and of the fire alarm system, which did not.
There is another inspection of the fire alarm system set for Sunday and a separate inspection slated for the following day.
"There's one more final inspection that's already scheduled for Monday and that's the whole (overall) fire safety inspection. Presumably, if the fire alarm is fine than that's fine, too," Kibbe said sitting down outside his office at the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union on Friday. "If the one on Sunday doesn't pass, there's no point in doing the one on
He said state inspectors have been at the school nearly every day for weeks.
Kibbe said the construction work, by Trumbull-Nelson Construction Company, has not been going as quickly as he had hoped but said progress is being made. He said the work began during the previous April school vacation.
"At this point, there are two parts of the project that have to come together to finish (the renovations) off," Kibbe said. "One is the physical preparations of spaces, all the physical things that are being done so it's ready for kids and teachers, and then the second piece is all the inspections and fire safety approvals.
"Ultimately what we get is a certificate of occupancy from the (Vermont) Department of Public Safety when everything is OK," he added. "In terms of the physical spaces, they're getting there."
Moccia, entering her second year as principal, said it was upsetting to have to make the call informing faculty and school families the first day had been moved yet again.
"I think the students want to be in school. I think they miss school. I think they're a little tired of summer break and they're ready to come back," she said at the WNESU office. "It's disappointing, the call that I had to make last night. It's not one that I wanted to make."
She said she also sent out e-mails and letters.
Moccia said she worked in construction before entering the education field and understands the unexpected sometimes impedes on plans. She added, however, that she remains optimistic.
"I was down there a little earlier and the guys had a smile on their faces and said they were making progress. So I'm really hoping that we're not out the entire week," she said.
Kibbe said the Rockingham School Board, at its latest meeting, authorized him and Moccia to postpone the first day of school.
When asked if these delays would result in the students' having to extend their school year into next summer, Kibbe said that hasn't yet been figured out.
"We would actually try to avoid that," he said, adding there are other options like picking some Saturdays on which the students go to school to make up the days.
The superintendent also wanted to clarify a few points about the construction work being done. He said only the ground floor, third floor and a few rooms on the first floor are being occupied by workers. The second floor and remaining sections of the first one will have work done while the children are in school. The workers and the students will be kept apart, he said.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.