Construction catch-up - Summer is the time for school upgrades

June 30, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Last year, summer vacation was 11 weeks long - a real boon for school construction projects traditionally accelerated when students are on break.

This year, the school construction season is just nine weeks, due to a number of snow days that had to be made up in June.

Despite the shorter season, most of the planned work is going on, said Dennis McGee, director of facilities management for Washington County Public Schools.


"Things repeat and we get better at it because of that repetition," McGee said as he looked over the list of projects for this summer.

A new roof is going up at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport - a $750,000 project.

"We look at roofs as having a 20-year life span," McGee said. "Springfield's is 27 years old, so it's due."

While the school has a flat roof, the new roof will be better insulated and somewhat pitched to allow better water runoff. A roof drain system is being added, McGee said.

"We tend to get more out of our buildings around here than the standard, which is 65 years," McGee said.

When a building reaches the 45-year mark, major renovations are undertaken, such as those recently completed at South Hagerstown High and Clear Spring Elementary schools.

The largest renovation project planned is at Salem Avenue Elementary School, where nearly $6.5 million will be spent over the next 22 months, McGee said. Once asbestos in the building is removed, construction will begin on new classrooms, which will increase the square footage of the school by nearly half.

Other summer projects include:

  • Smithsburg Middle School's synthetic gymnasium floor will get a $50,000 overlay - the sixth such overlay in Washington County schools that went with the nonwood floors a number of years ago.

  • The costs of new floors being installed this summer are Northern Middle, $30,000; Marshall Street, $55,000; and Pangborn Elementary, $78,000.

  • A boiler at Northern Middle will be installed at a cost of $253,000.

  • Western Heights Middle School had a new cooler/chiller tower put into place the third week of June. The price tag for that installation was $202,000, McGee said.

McGee said the school system received all the money it requested this year from the Maryland Board of Public Works.

McGee said the time rapidly is approaching when renovations won't be enough to keep up with the growing student population in Washington County.

"We need to build," he said, noting that the last new school built in Washington County was Eastern Elementary (1992). "I'm looking at numbers - internal migration, housing developments - and I'm worrying."

McGee said that in 2007, 10 of Washington County's 24 elementary schools will be overcrowded.

"Only two are now considered overcrowded and one of those is Salem, which is being renovated," he said.

Once all-day kindergarten has been phased in throughout the county it will put more pressure on already strained buildings, he said.

"We have 1,442 kindergarteners now, 700-plus who go in the morning and 700-plus in the afternoon," McGee said.

Getting more money for these needs is the hardest part, McGee said.

"The state doesn't recognize the need until the kids are hanging out the windows," he said.

In the meantime, Washington County is buying 29 portable classrooms over the next five years at a cost of $90,000 each, fully equipped, McGee said.

Richard Bender, director of facilities for the Chambersburg (Pa.) district, said earlier in June that the largest project this summer in Franklin County, Pa., is renovations being done at the nearly 50-year-old Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

Those upgrades are being paid for with a $12.7 million bond issue, a portion of which is being used for projects at other schools. While students and teachers are taking off for the summer, Bender and contractors will be working to get the building ready for the coming school year.

Jim Welton, assistant superintendent of finance in Berkeley County, W.Va., said the most expensive item planned in that county is the construction of a $12.5 million middle school in the Spring Mills area which is expected to open next year.

Also planned are:

  • A $6.5 million renovation of Hedgesville High School now under way.

  • A $3.3 million improvement of facilities at Hedgesville Elementary School, also ongoing.

Welton also said a $5.8 million renovation of South Middle School in Martinsburg will begin this fall.

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