Craftsbury Academy Goes Green

09/12/11 6:34AM By Amy Kolb Noyes
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(Host) When students returned to classes at Craftsbury Academy, they walked into one of the oldest and smallest schools in Vermont. And thanks to recent renovations, the historic schoolhouse is now one of the most efficient in the state.

VPR's Amy Noyes has the story:

(Noyes) Despite being one of the oldest schools in the country, Craftsbury Academy is well on its way to becoming one of the state's first certified "high performance" school buildings-a "green school".

School board member Harry Miller has spent a dozen years working to improve the school's physical plant. Today, it's a model of efficiency, and wired for the latest technology.

(Harry Miller) "We are going to be the oldest high performance school building in the country - which is quite a thing. You know, I mean the main building, 1868, and we've turned it into a 21st century educational facility that has all the latest technology that we can think of. And that's really pretty cool."

(Noyes) Miller gives a tour of the school, starting in the boiler room. He points to a state-of-the-art biomass burner that's remotely monitored to ensure peak efficiency. So, what's that got to do with education? Miller says it's vastly improved the learning environment.

(Miller) "My son's classmate liked to say he used to bring four sweaters to school. And in math class you'd put on three or four, it'd be about 38, 40 - anywhere from 30 to 40 degrees in that classroom. And then you'd walk down through the gym and over to here and it'd be 85. And actually you'd have to peel off and get down to a t-shirt. And that's not a really good learning environment."

(Noyes) Now that renovations are complete on the main building, construction is about to start on a new gym. Miller says the goal is to make it a community center, open to Craftsbury residents of all ages.

And the community will be involved in the gym from the ground up - literally. Three dozen landowners are donating logs to build the basketball court. Miller's leading a group of volunteers to lay down the floor.

(Miller) "It's gonna be wood from our own community. We had several landowners I talked to who said, "You know my grandfather and my father and I have been saving a tree for something like this" And so we got some incredible trees. I mean just some amazing wood."

(Noyes) Miller says the floor won't be perfect, but it will be uniquely Craftsbury.

(Miller) "There'll be some tap holes in it probably. A lot of people aren't for having it in the gym floor itself, but I'll probably put the tap holes in the out-of-bounds."

(Noyes) The school building project has been controversial - and at times divisive - with some people objecting to the costs.

But Harry Miller says that, in the end, the community has rallied around this latest project.

(Miller) "The school is the symbol of our town. And we have a vibrant community. It's an incredible place, it really is, and the school is the heart of that."

(Noyes) Harry Miller believes - in the long run - Craftsbury will unite behind its school.

For VPR News, I'm Amy Noyes.

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