Need a Lift? | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published May 6, 2009 at 11:13 a.m.

Editor's Note: Here's a new update from Aimee Picchi, who reported this week on the continuing debate about accessibility issues at Burlington's Edmunds Middle School. -- Margot Harrison

Edmunds Middle School needs a lift: The century-old building isn't accessible to people in wheelchairs or those with mobility issues.That may soon change. On Tuesday evening, the finance committee of the Burlington School Board received a feasibility report for adding an elevator to the five-story building. The upshot: The lift would cost the school district $1.58 million.

The biggest costs for the elevator: an estimated $410,000 to upgrade the school's electrical system and $300,000 to replace the school's fire alarm. The elevator equipment itself will cost $142,000. The board hopes to place the elevator plans on its website soon for the public to review.

Adding the first elevator would mark the first step in a longer-range plan to make the entire four-building Edmunds complex, including the elementary school, the cafeteria and the middle-school gym, accessible to the handicapped. Eventually the school would have several elevators and a ramp from Main Street into the cafeteria building, which would become the school's main entrance.

According to Burlington School District Superintendent Jeanne Collins, a seven-year phased plan to make each building compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act will be ready in a few weeks. Much of Tuesday's meeting was taken up with a discussion of how to tap funding to pay for the proposed middle school elevator, with possibilities including grants, Federal stimulus dollars and private fundraising. Avoided at the meeting was much discussion of bonding to pay for the upgrades. Stay tuned.