Vernon schools consider $3 million in upgrades

Vernon. Officials say the district’s buildings are in good shape overall but needed repairs are costly. The school board has not yet decided if there will be a bond referendum.

Vernon /
| 28 Dec 2020 | 12:22

The Vernon Township School District Referendum Committee identified nearly $3 million worth of upgrades the district’s buildings that could come up for a vote in the future.

Board of Education President Justin Annunziata said at a recent school board meeting that he doesn’t know if the district will be going forward with a bond referendum immediately but said it will be discussed during the upcoming budget season.

“Our schools are in relatively decent condition compared to many school districts throughout the state and the country,” Annunziata said. “We maintain them well and invest in them, but from time to time, there are projects that need to be done that are expensive.”

The district was exploring a bond referendum and about a year ago formed a Referendum Committee to tour the buildings and prioritize projects that may need to be done.

Adina Leuthner, a member of the committee who will join the Board of Education in January, said the buildings are in decent shape but they found things that needed to be fix.

According to a report filed by the committee, Vernon Township High School needs about $1 million in work, needing an upgrade to an electrical panel, window replacement and fire and smoke alarm upgrades. Glen Meadow needed a window replacement project and repaving in the upper lot and driveway.

Lounsberry Hollow and Cedar Mountain were found to need backup generators, estimated at about $350,000 each.

Interim Business Administrator Donna Risse said the numbers were rough estimates.

“I don’t like to stick band-aids on things just to spend more money down the road,” Leuthner said. “Every project on that list is extremely needed at this time.”

Superintendent Karen D’Avino said she did one of the building walkthroughs with members of the committee.

We’re in and out of the buildings on a regular basis and it’s really important to have that birds-eye view from another perspective,” she said. “Seeing the buildings through their eyes was something I appreciated very much because there might be something I walk by all the time and not quite realize the magnitude of the project.”

The only building the committee didn’t look at was Walnut Ridge, which the Board of Education was marketing for sale or lease before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused the school board to re-evaluate that decision and school board member Mark Cilli suggested taking a look at it.

Annunziata said the list gives the board an organized way of evaluating the buildings’ needs.

“Even if we don’t go to referendum, this could be very valuable to our Buildings and Grounds committee and our Maintenance Dept. and Central Office and to evaluate the work that needs to be done to maintain our facilities,” he said.

“I don’t like to stick band-aids on things just to spend more money down the road. Every project on that list is extremely needed at this time.” Adina Leuthner