The Champlain Valley School District walked back plans to spend nearly $200,000 to relocate its central administrative offices, saying the district was unsure of the appropriateness or timeliness of the proposal.
Superintendent Rene Sanchez unveiled the plan to relocate the district’s central offices to a new location on Hurricane Lane in Williston at the school board meeting on Oct. 18.
The proposal would have increased office space from the “current cramped 7,889 square feet to 17,500 square feet, allowing us to bring all staff into the office and have much needed meeting space,” Sanchez said.
The need for increased office space “was identified as far back as 2006,” reads the presentation, which can be found at bit.ly/3EN2so6.
Currently, the district uses space in the Shelburne Town Offices in the village, said Bonnie Birdsall, the district’s director of communication. But the space is “too small for us to carry out work efficiently,” Sanchez said at the October meeting.
“There is no space to fit all of our current staff, much less any new staff,” Sanchez said. “We currently have to share these restricted working spaces, compete for meeting rooms and if we want to host a meeting, we have to hope that there’s space on certain campuses because not all campuses have space for us to hold a meeting and, frequently, we’re unable to have meetings during the day because the spaces are being used by classrooms and by teachers and students.”
The relocation would have allowed the district to “improve operations — the goal, of course, for us to be able to work together (and) to be able to timely collaborate and cooperate,” he said.
The central administration’s original goal was to ask the school board for approval at the Nov. 15 meeting and sign a lease by Dec. 1. But, at its November meeting, Sanchez announced they would be suspending the plan after “approaching a better view of what our budget for next year will look like.”
“Since, at this time we cannot completely project the final budget numbers, we are unsure as to the appropriateness of the time to change locations,” he said.
Sanchez did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarity on the district’s budget projections for the following school year.
The site at Hurricane Lane would have cost the district $187,416 more to lease annually. It is unclear how much the district pays currently for its lease — an email seeking details was not returned by press deadline.
Meanwhile, according to the October presentation, the district would have had to spend an additional $100,000 to refurbish the building to make it more suitable.
School board members during the October meeting sounded uneasy about the prospect of moving offices.
Keith Roberts, the school board member from Hinesburg, commented that “in light of the growth of remote work, not to put too fine a point on it, but do we really need this much space?”
School board member Erin Brady of Williston said she worried about public perception.
“If we haven’t addressed classroom space at (Allen Brook Elementary School), but we’re able to double administrative space two minutes away, that feels like a hard thing to justify,” Brady said. “Needing more space for the safety of workers in Covid — we’re a school district, teachers are packed in with kids and kids are packed in with each other all day. I think that’s a challenging thing to be talking about publicly.”