South Burlington, VT– A long-awaited measure to help overcrowding in some South Burlington schools broke ground on Wednesday.

Work on Zero Energy Modulars, or ZEMs, got underway at Rick Marcotte Central and the Orchard School.

“The installation of Zero Energy Modular marks the first step in alleviating these spacing constraints and will afford our students appropriate facilities more conducive for learning,” says South Burlington School District Superintendent Violet Nichols.

She says that for the last few years, learning conditions have deteriorated the lack of space for the growing enrollment at both schools.

“These Zero Energy Modulars exemplify the South Burlington School District’s commitment to minimize our impact on the environment,” says Nichols.

On Town Meeting Day, voters passed a bond package aimed at funding the $6 million ZEM project. City Council enacted an impact fee that will cover an estimated 91% of the cost.

The principals of both schools are glad for the expansion.

“We have been squeezing into this building. This past year we had 442 students, and the breathing room of this additional space is going to feel like we’re changing out of dress clothes and into sweatpants,” exclaims Rick Marcotte Central School Principal Lissa McDonald.

Each unit provides four classrooms, and McDonald says her school can now add a 23rd classroom teacher with the space. Orchard School Principal Mark Trifilio says the project will hopefully be completed by the time school is back in session.

“We thought we were a large school back when we had 365 students. We now have grown up to 450 including our preschool program. There continues to be a concern about the shrinking number of students in Vermont. South Burlington thankfully does not have that concern as we have been fortunate to be increasing in student population,” says Trifilio.

The ZEMs are being constructed off-site by KBS Homes, and DEW Construction will oversee the installation.

Trifilio adds the modulars are an “excellent step to having more flexible options to meet the growing demand.”