Charlotte Central School is a beautiful but problematic facility, a patchwork quilt of a school building, a three-dimensional timeline of the history of education on Hinesburg Road in Charlotte.
The oldest part of the school building is its western end. Built in 1939, this section was originally Charlotte’s Town Hall. Today, the school’s cafeteria is on the ground floor. The second floor of this end of the school – which mostly matches up with the main school building’s first floor – is the school’s library.
As principals Stephanie Sumner and Jennifer Roth walk the hallways of their beautiful building of stitched together eras, the temperature changes noticeably from cold to hot to cold again.
And as they traverse the school building and the different temperatures, they travel through time – five different additions in 1969, 1987, 1996, 2011 and 2016.
Sumner said, “The temperature changes significantly depending on the time of day, classrooms across the hall from each other might vary 15 degrees.”
There are “several structures trying to work together” that need to be sealed up with an insulation envelope to prevent the escaping energy they’re “losing at a pretty good clip,” she said during a tour of the building.
The tour was to illustrate the problems that would be fixed with Charlotte Central School’s $4.5 million share of the Champlain Valley School District’s proposed $6 million construction bond.
The primary thing that would be accomplished is putting cement board insulation on the outside of the building, a cladding “envelope” to improve energy efficiency.
Before they put on the cladding, Sumner said, they need to fill many hollow spaces in the walls with insulation. Where structures from different decades meet, there are gaps that really diminish the school’s energy efficiency.
Uninsulated steel beams are part of an addition from an earlier time when energy efficiency was not as high a priority as architectural design.
Roth said the second floor of the main building was built on a concrete slab that was the first floor’s roof. The uninsulated concrete conducts cold or hot temperatures depending on the season. This would be covered by the envelope.
Infrared photos that have been taken of the building show heat flowing out around single-pane windows and from the uninsulated steel beams and concrete slab.
If the bond passes, the school’s windows and doors will be upgraded, which will make the building more energy-efficient, more comfortable and safer.
Roth said the art room which is on the second floor and at the front of the building over the entrance to the school is “absolutely lovely,” but there’s no barrier for water that hits the front of the building so sometimes water flows down the exterior and through gaps at the top of the windows and into the art room.
Another problem with the construction collage is accessibility. For a student with limited mobility who can’t use stairs, the only way to get to the cafeteria is up the ramp to the library. On the far side in the back of the library, there is a lift they have to take to get down to join their classmates in the cafeteria.
There are a lot of doorways that take you down back stairways and up stairways that some students can’t access, said Sumner.
If you squat in the entryway of some of the exterior doors on the front side of the building, you can see daylight through the gap between door and threshold. And the metal door frames are rusted.
Sumner points out the divots and holes in the stucco on the gym in the back of the school. In warmer weather, some of these serve as habitat for bird nests. Sometimes bee nests.
“But then there are the great parts. This campus ... “ said Sumner, pausing as we re-enter the rear of the building and looking back out over her school’s snow-blanketed athletic fields with Pease Mountain beyond. “I taught in several schools in southern Vermont before I moved up here. This is probably the best campus I’ve seen.”