From Lisa Scagliotti at

At its regular meeting this Wednesday, the Harwood Unified Union School District School Board will review plans for building maintenance projects for the next three years and likely will put the brakes on plans to overhaul the Waitsfield Elementary School kitchen.





That’s because a single bid on the project has come in much higher than anticipated.

The board also is looking to schedule an extra meeting in early April when it could approve the hire of a new co-principal for Crossett Brook Middle School for next school year.

Last fall, the school board heard from administrators about the need to create a professional kitchen at the Waitsfield school which currently relies on Fayston Elementary School for meal preparation. Daily breakfast and lunch meals are prepared at the smaller school and the routine requires an elaborate coordination of staff to transport meals and dishes between the two schools using employees’ personal vehicles.

In October when school administrators proposed remodeling the Waitsfield school kitchen, they said the cost estimate had grown from $402,000 in February 2022 to $554,000 by fall. The estimates were done by the Burlington firm TruexCullins which has been providing architectural services to the district for the past five years or so.

Just last month, the district received one bid on the project from Farrington Construction Company in Shelburne. Dated Feb. 13, the proposal pegs the cost at $879,318.




When additional items including schematic designs, engineering, construction documents and contingencies are factored in, the total projected cost comes to $1,045,849, according to district Finance Director Lisa Estler in her report for Wednesday’s board meeting.

School board Chair Kristen Rodgers and Vice Chair Kelley Hackett in their report ahead of the March 22 meeting suggest that the board hold off on moving ahead with the project. “While the Waitsfield kitchen is in dire need of updating, the single bid came in much higher than we expected. If approved this would use up significant maintenance reserve funds and we might not have a large enough buffer for a building emergency or the work that is part of the three-year maintenance plan,” they write.

In addition to the Waitsfield project, the Wednesday meeting will include a discussion of the three-year maintenance plan for the district’s seven school facilities that would tap into the district’s Maintenance Reserve Fund to pay for projects at all of the school facilities across the district’s six communities.

Voters on Town Meeting Day approved putting into the account a $696,931 surplus from the 2021-22 budget. Once that’s added in, the maintenance fund balance will be approximately $4.5 million, Estler said.

Estler and Director of Maintenance and Operations Ray Daigle will review projects done last summer and discuss what’s on the list for this summer and the following two years.

Some of the projects include: roof replacement projects at Harwood Union High School, Fayston and Waitsfield schools, HVAC system work at Harwood, Brookside and Crossett Brook; other items include flooring, parking lot maintenance, window replacements and more. The items are labeled with tags such as “must” or “need” with notes on which can be phased over several years. The full list is linked in the board meeting agenda.

Other items on the agenda include adding a special meeting on April 4 at 6 p.m. via Zoom to approve the hiring of a new principal for Crossett Brook Middle School. A committee has been working on reviewing applicants to hire a co-principal for the middle school. Current Principal Tom Drake is leaving at the end of this school year and a co-principal structure will be put in place starting next fall. Duane Pierson, currently assistant principal at Harwood for the middle school, will move to one of the co-principal positions at Crossett Brook and a new hire would join him.

Superintendent Mike Leichliter’s report to the board will include an update on goals set for him this year, a discussion of updating Harwood graduating requirements, and a look at the proposed 2023-24 school calendar.

The board meets at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the Harwood library and via Zoom for participation and YouTube for viewing. Details are on the meeting agenda in the website Board section.