Master Planning and Visioning - Exploring the Issue of Noise

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Thursday November 02, 2017

The school district’s master planning and visioning subcommittee has been hard at work with an eye toward hitting the goals and target time lines established in a board resolution passed in December 2016. As the subcommittee, made up of Bridget Burkhardt, Steve Wisloski, and Martin LaLonde, with technical assistance from administrators and outside consultants has been delving into their work, they have discovered that due to the scope and nuance of each item, more time will likely be needed to complete each step. An action item to officially change the dates of these goals will be on one of the board’s November agendas. In the meantime, the subcommittee provided an update on each of their areas of focus at the October 18 meeting, but the majority of the conversation veered in the direction of noise and its potential impacts on student health and education.

The areas of focus this subcommittee is exploring have to do with identifying upgrades at the high school and middle school as well as the educational value of each, developing a contingency plan should Chamberlin School need to be closed due to adverse impacts on health, revitalizing the district’s strategic plan beginning with a phase I analysis of current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT), and monitoring issues that are currently or may impact education at Chamberlin School specifically.

When the board worked on formulating their resolution for next steps around master planning and visioning last year, how noise affects students’ health and learning at Chamberlin School was at the forefront of conversations. Wednesday night’s meeting continued this trend. Much of the information the board has had around this issue to date, has been purely anecdotal. The “Chamberlin pause” is a well-known phrase, referring to the moments throughout the day when teachers need to stop their lessons since they cannot be heard over the sound of planes passing overhead. The board has been wanting to determine a baseline for current noise levels at the school in order to, hopefully, begin to project what the impacts could be when the F35s arrive in September of 2019.

To this end, on October 11, the district authorized the hiring of ATC, a national provider of integrated environmental consulting services located in Williston, to produce a noise monitoring work plan to determine current levels of noise. The plan will be made available to the board and will serve as a basis for bidding out to qualified firms to complete the study. It is anticipated that a firm will be selected and ready for board approval November 15.

In order to attain information that could assist in this process, Superintendent David Young has been actively engaging with the Burlington International Airport to request more information on their noise maps as well as the FAA’s (Federal Aviation Administration) Noise Compatibility Program. The district has received maps that show the DNL (day/night average) of sound, but what has been unclear, is what specific events contribute to the delineation of the noise contours. ATC will put out specifications for health related data in their plan and Young said the district is moving forward with this work and not waiting for another EIS (Environmental Impact Study) to be done.

In addition, an Airport Technical Advisory Committee has been created to serve as a vehicle for community input to advise the airport and FAA on an update to the Noise Compatibility Program. Steve Wisloski serves as the school board’s representative and the city is represented by City Manager Kevin Dorn, Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner, and residents George Maille and Carmine Sargent. Five meetings will be held in total, with the next taking place December 5 and the last in March, if needed. Conversations around the potential for the school’s eligibility for noise abatement measures is a key point of interest for the district and one for which they will continue to seek information.

Although the school district is eagerly pursuing information in order to ensure the current and future health of Chamberlin School students, they will also use this information for potential contingency planning around the school, should conditions be deemed unsafe. Currently, the committee is exploring all of their options in the event the district decides one or more of its schools need to be closed, downsized, or re-purposed. There are certainly opportunities and challenges associated with each, including the logistics of building a new school, the addition of classroom space to current schools, occupancy of unoccupied or underutilized lease space, and of course, the expense of modular, portable classrooms, which are often short term fixes that do not provide the best long term return on investment.

The school board is not the first entity in the city to wonder about and push for studies regarding noise in the Chamberlin neighborhood. The city’s Chamberlin Neighborhood Airport Planning Committee (CNAPC) also explored sound issues in their noise subcommittee and presented the city council with their final report in January 2016. Recommendations included executing studies on the health effects of noise on all citizens, having the council assume responsibility for ongoing monitoring and assessment of noise levels, and identifying noise related issues inside and outside the Chamberlin School by using real time noise monitoring, among many other considerations.

Regular updates on this item will be provided at each board meeting.


SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent