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School closed by mold, dropping enrollment set to reopen

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 5:11 PM EST
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POMFRET, Vt. (WCAX) - A school in the Windsor Central Supervisory Union that closed because of a mold problem and dropping enrollment is now set to reopen next fall as the district copes with COVID and a sudden rise in student numbers. Our Olivia Lyons takes you to the Prosper Valley School in Pomfret.

“By the time we are ready for next fall, it’s going to be basically a brand new school,” said Sherry Sousa, the interim superintendent of the Windsor Central Supervisory Union.

Sousa says last fall the district began fixing mold issues that forced students out of the Prosper Valley school just over two years ago.

The district has spent between $700,000 and $800,000 on renovations, much less than the millions it would cost for a completely new building.

“It’s been a real loss to not have them for the last two-and-a-half years and so getting really excited about planning and the work being done over there,” Sousa said.

Sousa says the district always planned on bringing students back to Prosper Valley but the reopening has become more urgent due to an increase in enrollment at another school in the district. Woodstock Elementary School currently has more than 300 students. Sousa says she would prefer around 200 students in the building.

The increase in enrollment has made returning all students at WES to a full in-person learning model impossible while still maintaining social distancing.

“We’ve had a lot of shifts in terms of student population. I don’t know if it was specifically the new students that moved in,” Sousa said.

The current recommendation is to use Prosper Valley to house all fifth- and sixth-graders from Pomfret, Bridgewater, Reading and Woodstock. That would take 85 students out of WES, freeing up more space for K-4 students.

“I think it’s great. Prosper Valley School is a nice school and it’s a shame we aren’t using it,” said Roni Skerker of Woodstock.

Skerker has an 8-year-old grandson at WES. She says spreading the students out and getting them back in school four days a week is a priority.

“The bottom line is these kids need to be in school. I’m an old school teacher, I taught for 40 years and kids need to be in school,” Skerker said.

Many Woodstock Elementary School families told me they’re actually new to the supervisory union, but they have heard great things about this school and are excited.

“I’m excited! Because I really want to move to that school because it’s super close to our house,” said Alana Defoor, a Pomfret third-grader.

“When we first moved here we knew it was a little bit up in the air as to what they were going to do there and I’m glad to see they’re resolving some of the issues,” dad Joe Defoor said.

Sousa says the pandemic delayed some contract work, but if the school had been ready this spring, students would have been moved.

Discussions between the towns about the new student alignment will be happening virtually and then go to the school board for a final decision.

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