Danville community eyeing pricey school ventilation upgrade

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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DANVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) - The health of students and staff is on everyone’s minds as school districts look at reopening plans. In Danville, the cost to keep students safe could be an expensive facility upgrade that the community will have to pay for.

At issue is eight energy recovery units on the roof of the pre-k through 12th grade school that are failing. The units circulate fresh air throughout the building, including some of the classrooms that don’t have windows.

"With COVID, we need to be supplying fresh air all the time," said David Schilling, the Danville School's principal.

The cost to replace the units is coming in at roughly $700,000. It’s a price tag that, if approved by the community, will largely fall on taxpayers.

"Being the bearer of bad news, especially for something that is out of the budget cycle, is not something that I am a fan of. But at the same time, with COVID-19, it's become a pretty crucial safety need for this building," Schilling said.

"It's not going to be a big increase. I don't think when you think of all the people in the town of Danville chipping in," said Dana Chamberlin, who grew up in the small town. He supports the improvements for one simple reason. "The kids need to get back to school. Whatever it is going to take to get them back in school."

“We have to have it. We have to have our ventilation system,” said Clayton Cargill, a local school board member. “We just had a tax increase this year. To ask for another one is very very difficult, especially in this exact moment it seems like a very difficult thing to have to deal with. But we have to ask it.”

There was $6.5 million through the CARES Act that has been set aside for air quality improvements in Vermont schools and Danville is working with Efficiency Vermont to get a slice of that money. But with dozens of schools applying, Danville’s grant will only likely cover a fraction of the total cost of the project.

"If we are going to say that we are going to open schools for in-person instruction -- which we absolutely have to do to have kids back in school -- there are some costs associated with that that have to be addressed," Schilling said.

A public meeting will be held this Thursday to discuss the project. The full vote will likely take place at the next board meeting on August 4th, just about a month before students will be returning to school.

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