BELLOWS FALLS -- All the work it took to renovate Bellows Falls Middle School has finally paid off.
The Rockingham School Board and Bellows Falls Middle School Design Committee were selected as the recipients of a preservation award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont. They were nominated by the project's lead architect, John Hemmelgarn of Black River Design. The award will be presented at the Preservation Trust of Vermont's annual conference in Island Pond on May 2.
Chris Kibbe, the superintendent of schools for the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, was informed of the selection in an e-mail from Preservation Trust Executive Director Paul Bruhn a couple of weeks ago.
"You should know that picking just 10 award winners was an enormously difficult task. The jury reviewed 23 nominations, and virtually all of them were highly qualified and worthy of an award. I hope you feel highly gratified to make it through the process successfully," the e-mail read. "You're a great example of how local groups and organizations are passionate about their communities and willing to do the very hard work of saving and using our great places. Thank you for your amazing work Your effort is the best of what Vermont is all about."
The project came with some hiccups, but Kibbe told the Reformer it is nice to know the effort didn't go unnoticed around the state.
"We are thrilled. A lot of people worked hard on it," he said. "It's great to get recognition for the project.
Kibbe previously said the original school was constructed in the 1920s but had to be rebuilt after it burned down. He said the renovation project was paid for through a bond.
The renovation began in April 2012, about a year after voters approved of it with a 638-571 vote. This academic year is the first in which schoolchildren can enjoy the complete renovation. Trumbull-Nelson Construction Company was hired for the $10.5 million project and most of it was finished by March 2013, though a few minor aspects needed to be wrapped up after that.
The start of the previous school year had twice been postponed due to the renovations. The first day of school was originally set for Aug. 28 and then rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 10. But failure to pass an inspection forced the date back to Sept. 17. At that time, Kibbe said there were several inspections needed to get a certificate of occupancy from the Vermont Department of Public Safety. He said the sprinkler system passed inspection, but the fire alarm system initially did not.
With the renovation, the bathrooms were redone (and some were added to the cafeteria) and all the students now have personal lockers. One of the most noticeable differences is the new entrance to the school and the pathway leading up to it.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.