School board oks emergency expense for snow removal
WINSTED — The Winchester Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a $60,000 emergency expense to remove snow from the roofs of the town’s three public schools, after it was determined that the weight of accumulated snow was too much for the buildings to bear.
A concerted effort to clear the snow from the Pearson Middle School roof took place Saturday, Feb. 5, after town Building Inspector Marc Melanson told Superintendent of Schools Blaise Salerno that snow accumulation had reached an estimated 30 pounds per square foot, which is the safety limit for the school buildings. Salerno issued a call to local residents via the town’s automated call system asking for help with the Pearson roof, and about 35 residents came out with shovels, and snowblowers to take part in the effort.
“These people were real troopers,” Salerno said at Tuesday night’s meeting, thanking everyone who had helped out.
Salerno said the school system’s custodial staff had done a tremendous job with the snow-removal efforts but that they had been overworked and that the school system now needed to call for outside help to finish clearing snow on the Pearson roof and on the roofs at Batcheller and Hinsdale Elementary Schools.
Though he had seen estimates much higher for snow-removal costs, Salerno said he had received a bid “not to exceed $50,000” for the clearing of snow at all three schools. With a private contractor doing the work Wednesday, the superintendent said he thought school could open the following day. “I am looking forward to a Thursday opening,” he said.
Board member James Divita said it was time for the community to come together and support the emergency expense. “It has to be done,” he said, making the motion to approve $60,000 for roof snow removal and for an engineering report to make sure there is no structural damage at the schools. The motion was approved unanimously.
Board members noted that the school system had already experienced 10 canceled school days and that the school calendar would have to be modified at the end of the year to make up for the cancellations.
According to the calender ratified by the Board of Education in April 2010, the last school day for students was Monday, June 13.
However, as of press time, schools have been closed for a total of 11 days due to the winter weather and building maintenance.
By state law, the district is required to be open for 181 days.
Shaw Israel Izikson contributed to this story.