Montpelier, VT – At Montpelier High School, Wednesday felt like your typical first day of school. Students walked through the doors and into their classrooms just like normal, even though the last few months in Montpelier have been anything but normal.
On July 10, flood waters from the Winooski River spilled into downtown Montpelier and poured into the high school’s basement. In the following weeks, the Montpelier Roxbury Public School District spent over $1 million dollars pumping nearly six feet of water out of the basement, on top of repairing boilers and electric equipment.
But even then, bacteria from the excess water still remains in the basement, and district officials say it won’t go away.
“Our plan to kill the bacteria that was in there didn’t exactly work,” said Libby Bonesteel, Superintendent of Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools. “It worked in areas like the boiler room that had a concrete floor, but anything that was a silt or mud floor, it didn’t work, and that’s the vast majority of our basement.”
Fortunately, Bonesteel says none of that bacteria has made its way up to the main floors yet. But to make sure it stays that way, the district is keeping extra treatment measures in place until at least wintertime when they expect the bacteria to die. That includes three vents that are pumping air from the basement through HEPA filters and then outside.
“We’re doing weekly mold testing, air testing in the upper levels to make sure that the air is just going out through the HEPA filters and not coming up through the floorboards,” Bonesteel added.
While the short term solution is working so far, Bonesteel knows some community members are thinking about a long term solution of moving the high school to an area less susceptible to flooding. She says the district will have those conversations with the community later on, and then make a decision.
“We’ll go into that with our community,” Bonesteel said. “We’ll look at this building in particular and what needs to be either retrofitted, or do we need to move, or what do we need to do in order to have the best educational environment for our students and ensure that it’s stable.”