Noise study could lead to changes at school near Burlington Airport

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) South Burlington's Chamberlin Elementary School is located half a mile from the Burlington International Airport. Several times a month, the sound of F-16s cause what the district's superintendent, David Young, calls the "pause."

"You are right in the middle of a conversation, a lesson, a listening to from students to a teacher or each other and all of a sudden you have to enter into a pause because it's too loud to continue," Young explained.

In May, an environmental firm hired by the district conducted noise testing in and around the school. Results came back earlier this month and varied depending on who is looking at the numbers.

"There are no real significant concerns that we should be aware of," Young said.

According to the study, calculated noise levels were in compliance with federal workplace safety standards but exceeded limits recommended by the Federal Interagency Committee on Noise or FICON.

Young says FICON standards are more applicable for students. For example, they suggest noise levels should not exceed 55 decibels near a school. Noise levels in the Chamberlin playground area average about 7 dbs higher than FICON standards.

Young says that's not enough to cause emergency action but it proves action needs to be taken in the future.

Now, additional testing is in the pipeline.

"They would bring speakers and putting them right outside of the classroom, and then measuring the inside volumes," Young said.

The superintendent says if the volume exceeds 45 dbs, the school could be eligible for federally funded soundproofing to keep classrooms quieter and eliminate the "pauses."

"Any sort of soundproofing, sound improvement would be helpful so students don't have to have that," Young said.

The superintendent says that if they are approved for federal funding, soundproofing could happen as early as next summer.

But board members acknowledge F-35s-- even louder jets-- are slated to arrive next fall. In the meantime, they are coming up with a plan in case soundproofing the school is not enough. That could include closing the school.