Commentary, Opinion

Why WUHS needs a new high school

Editor’s note: This was submitted by the Windsor Central Supervisory Union and may not represent the opinion of all school board members.

After two years of studying the best and highest value means of addressing the facility deficiencies of the 60 plus year-old middle and high school facility, the WCSU (Windsor Central Supervisory Union) board voted unanimously in June 2019 to pursue developing a financing strategy for a new middle and high school building.

The expert master planning team working with the district (including architectural, structural, civil, landscape, code, food service experts along with one of the best education planners in the country) reviewed the technical and cost feasibility of three options:

a renovation

a renovation with select additions

a new build

The analysis and evaluation concluded definitively that a new building would be the best value and most beneficial solution to the facility’s shortcomings.

Given the combination of inefficient layout of the MS/HS building on the site, the structural and building envelope (wall and roof) issues and need to bring up to current seismic codes; the need for all new systems (sewer, heating, ventilation, cooling, fire suppression); lack of ADA compliance and the cinder block wall construction making moving walls to alter space configurations not possible; renovation is both impractical and economically infeasible.

New build construction also costs substantially less than full renovation due to the fact that it takes less time and requires little disruption to students in the current building.

When a building is renovated, it requires that students are put in temporary classrooms, which is disruptive, lengthens the building timeline and costs substantially more. Although school buildings are renovated at times, each is unique, and the practicality of a renovation and technical feasibility depends on the “bones” of the building.

In the case of the Woodstock Union Middle and High School, the unique features of the current building make it more cost effective to build new.

Leigh Sherwood, a leading school designer from Lavallee Brensinger Architects, noted after meeting with and presenting to multiple committees that represented parents, faculty and residents from all seven towns in the WCSU that “it was determined that a renovation/addition option would be a poor value proposition for a school that could not be modified to meet the needs of a modern educational facility. A new school is less expensive than a renovation/addition option, both in first cost and future operating costs. A new school is easier and less disruptive to build, allows for efficient, flexible spaces for today’s learners, consists of high performance, durable construction with lower energy costs—all which would benefit WCSU far into the future.”

In addition to costing less to achieve district goals, a new middle and high school building will have a number of immediate short and long-term benefits:

Lowest total project cost and highest long-term value.

High performance (green building) results in immediate operating cost savings and reduced maintenance.

Ideal building and classroom configuration to maximize efficiency and learning and teaching spaces.

Better utilizes the acreage of the site and improves organization, accessibility, safety of pedestrians and vehicles, parking and orientation on site.

Allows for a new multi-purpose sports field with track that is capable of hosting meets and events and extending the practice season for spring sports.

Design and layout of new building improves security of building occupants.

Design and layout of a new building maximizes school and community use allowing for collaborations and partnerships with community-wide organizations.

Creates ideal academic spaces necessary for delivery of 21st Century education.

Creates a place where all students in the district can be together for district wide events (such a space currently does not exist).

Becomes a source of school and community identity and pride and communicates Vermont values.

This would not be the first time that the school district will have built a new modern facility and razed an old school to reinvest in the future of the district’s children and communities. The circa 1854 Woodstock High School at the base of Linden Hill in the village of Woodstock was razed with students moving to a newly built “modern” high school in 1957. That 1957 facility has served our community well for over 60 years but has now outlived its useful life and it is time to once again reinvest in a new facility to house our middle and high schools.

The class of 2019 provided the first gift toward making this new building a reality, “They hope their gift will plant a seed that will grow with the support of many others in our communities so that someday in the not-too-distant future, they can come back to visit a modern, energy-efficient building that connects to this beautiful landscape with an abundance of natural light and flexible spaces to support and enhance the learning of the future,” said Michelle Fountain in her 2019 graduation speech.

For more information contact building committee chairs Ben Ford (bford@wcsu.net) or Bob Coates (bcoates@wcsu.net).

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