Summer of change

Returning students making their way to morning classes may notice a few changes along Castleton’s sidewalks, as several aesthetic additions were made across campus over the course of the summer. “I’m surprised by the library steps,” Castleton senior Chuck Smith said. “The change is pretty noticeable.”

The entrance to the Calvin Coolidge Library now has a renovated slate stone flower garden – one that can actually support plant life – and the newly designed Senator’s Courtyard stands as a brick and marble memorial gateway between the Jeffords and Stafford Center.

The renovated glass greenhouse next to the Jeffords Center now has it’s own vegetable garden, complete with green, ripening, tomatoes hanging from the vine, and a plethora of multi-colored flowers.

Castleton Communication Director Ennis Duling recalls fond memories of the original greenhouse, which was replaced by the current modern reincarnation during the last school year.

“I remember when the old greenhouse was new,” Duling said. “It was a magical place. I’d love to see this new one grow into something great again.”

Also along campus, a wooden gazebo now sits on a multi-colored slate patio to the right side of the campus coffee cottage, allowing students an additional place to sip their Green Mountain Coffee before class each morning.

Young maple trees and shrubs were planted near and along the sidewalks connecting the academic buildings, while a crushed slate path now clearly marks the old campus shortcut that slices through the grass from the Jeffords Center to Leavenworth and Woodruff Halls.

And while Castleton students may be pleased at the sight of some newly added campus charms, the real kicker is in what it cost them financially: absolutely nothing.

“A lot of the cosmetic changes you see around campus were funded by private donations and state money,” Castleton President Dave Wolk said. “Students aren’t paying for it.”

For instance, The Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation donated the maple trees and shrubs peppered across the east side of campus. The organization was founded by Castleton alum Alma Gibbs, who attended the school in the 1920’s. Gibbs’ foundation also donated money to renovate the campus’ Old Chapel 20 years ago.

The Senator’s Courtyard, which features a brick gate and marble plaques in tribute to former Vermont Senators Robert T. Stafford and James Jeffords, was created through funds obtained from the Jeffords donations to Castleton more than a year ago.

As for the renovated library entrance and the stone patio near the coffee cottage, these were built by using capital money, which was given to Castleton by the state of Vermont.

My money’s going somewhere, right?

But if all these campus renovations are already paid for, why is there an additional charge of $300 on each student’s billing statement every semester?

The answer: the gym, the Campus Center, and the new athletic field.

These three projects make up the final phase of Castleton’s master plan, appropriately named the Castleton Student Initiative (CSI), and funded by additional charge of $300 each full-time Castleton student each semester.

Created as a means to make Castleton more competitive with other schools in the region, the CSI includes massive renovations to the Glenbrook gymnasium and the Campus Center, as well as the construction of a new multi-purpose athletic field and stadium that will host a number of sports – including football.

It was the largest Act 250 permit and the biggest project of it’s kind approved in the state of Vermont so far this year.

And while students, particularly upperclassmen, have complained of being charged an additional fee for something they’d never be around long enough to see, President Wolk assures them that they are in fact getting quite the deal.

“Our fee is the lowest of our entire competition,” he said. “And it is set up as part of the financial aide package.”

“We also tried to sync up construction with the addition of the charges, which not every school does,” he said.

Wolk pointed out that the University of Vermont began charging students a similar fee of $1200 – four years before construction on any projects officially began.

Coming along nicely

Glenbrook gymnasium is currently in the midst a heavy dose of renovation, the first of the three primary CSI projects.

“We knew we couldn’t build a new gym,” Castleton President Dave Wolk said. “But we knew it could be renovated.”

Students hoping to gain access to gym may have noticed a bright orange barrier sectioning off the area outside the front lobby, blocking access through the front door entrance.

Construction crews have been taking apart the Glenbrook gym piece-by-piece since classes ended last spring. The every inch of the wooden floor where Castleton Spartans regularly host their basketball games has been removed.

But that’s not to say the wood is going to waste.

“In the interest of recycling, you’re going to see pieces of the (gym) floor all around campus,” Wolk said.

Sections of the 50 year-old historic flooring will be recycled and used as a number of number of things, including as a backdrop for the new Castleton sign on the wall of the renovated gymnasium, window finishes, and will even as memorial plaques for Castleton alum donors.

The gym construction is currently on schedule and will be ready for use in time for the first basketball game of the season in November. But that’s not to say everything in Glenbrook will be finished in time for the start of the season.

“There’ll be some temporary structures in the front of the building — a temporary entrance — when the games start,” Castleton Dean of Administration Bill Allen said, referring to the Glenbrook lobby renovations.

Some students were hoping things would be finished sooner.

“I thought we were promised at orientation that this would all be done by now,” Castleton student Alison Clark said. “I still see lots of plywood.”

Other students were a bit more receptive to the change.

“It’s construction,” Chuck Smith added.” Of course there will be set-backs. But I think they’re making great progress.”

In the weeks and months ahead

The three primary projects of the CSI should be completed by August 2009. Other projects set for completion by this time next year include an addition to Leavenworth Hall – which will host the new television studio –and Castleton’s own skateboard park.

After that, Wolk says, there are plans for the expansion of another Castleton staple – Huden Dining Hall.

And while many students may have grown tired of seeing constant construction during their stint at Castleton, changes to campus have helped reestablish Castleton as a college on the rise, as well as reenergize the paychecks of the Vermont community.

“Most of the workers doing the construction here are Vermonters,” Wolk said. “The money gets funneled back into the local economy.

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