Gov. Scott Appoints David Epstein to the VT School Construction Aid Task Force

Governor Scott has appointed David Epstein, AIA, to the Vermont School Construction Aid Task Force, a group created by the Vermont Legislature to examine issues relating to Vermont school construction aid. David has been a longtime advocate for Vermont public schools and has worked for many years to reinstate a new Vermont school construction program.

The Task Force is comprised of 16 members and will be chaired by State Treasurer Michael Pieciak and acting Vermont Secretary of Education Heather Bouchey. As laid out in VT House bill H.486, the group’s mission is to study the state’s school construction needs and potential funding options and report to the Legislature with written recommendations by January 2024. The group will review the conditions of school facilities statewide and study the following issues:

  • The needs, both programmatic and health and safety, of statewide school construction projects
  • Funding options for a statewide school construction program, including any incentive plans
  • A governance structure for the oversight and management of a school construction aid program
  • The appropriate state action level for response to polychlorinated biphenyl contamination in a school
  • Whether the State should continue to require the testing of indoor air quality in schools for polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Criteria for prioritizing school construction funding

Vermont is currently the only state in the Northeast without a statewide school construction aid program. Due to a backlog of financial obligations, the Legislature enacted a “temporary” moratorium in 2007, which was never lifted. The result is an enormous backlog of unaddressed facility needs, contributing to less-than-optimal learning environments, poor energy performance, and considerable inequities in the educational quality across the State.

In 2018 David founded a group of state education leaders, including Jeff Francis of the Vermont Superintendent’s Association, to meet and discuss a plan of action. The effort resulted in the passage of Act 72, which directed the Agency of Education to update the school construction aid program. Act 72 also commissioned a statewide school facility evaluation, which is currently underway. This study will assess every school facility in Vermont, make recommendations for infrastructure improvements, determine the cost of these recommendations, and rank buildings in terms of need.

David brings to the Task Force his experience working with VT public school districts around the state, including Winooski, Champlain Valley, Harwood, Addison Central, and Milton. The recently completed $60M Winooski Schools project design boasts many features that support collaboration, community, and team-based learning inclusively and equitably.

“We are fortunate to have David representing AIA Vermont on the Task Force,” said AIA Vermont Executive Director Sarah O’Donnell. “David has been a strong voice for school design and construction within AIAVT. With his experience and understanding of modern school design, he is extremely qualified.”

AIA Vermont is forming an ad-hoc committee of members to support David and provide him with feedback over the next few months while the Task Force is in effect. If any AIAVT member wishes to join that group, they may contact Sarah O’Donnell for more information.