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INDIANA: Expansive building projects on track

by on July 31, 2013 11:00 AM

A long stretch of daily rainy weather put some crimps in the plans for contractors working on the six Indiana Area School District buildings this summer.

With that wave of challenges behind, the supervisors and workers have tweaked their schedules and all now expect to meet their deadlines as planned.

When the school bells ring and students start classes for the new school year on Aug. 27 (the Tuesday before Labor Day), the only work still under way will be in Ben Franklin and Eisenhower elementary schools.

And school officials say the students and teachers in the classrooms should barely notice. Just as when work began and continued through the 2012-13 school year, renovations will be done after school hours or in areas away from the classrooms.

But in the four other buildings — Horace Mann and East Pike elementary schools and the junior- and senior-high schools — all the work should be finished and the students should see finished products.

That is, as long as the nice weather prevails, said Greg Trout, the supervisor of buildings and grounds for the district.

This school-by-school status check for the district is unprecedented. Since early 2012, the Indiana Area School District has taken on a project like no other in its history.

Because of state school funding guidelines, large-scale projects in the past were limited to one building at a time.

But under a new state law that allows schools to work outside those traditional rules — choosing the contractors that can do the most efficient rather than the least expensive work — Indiana designed a districtwide plan to make improvements that will pay for themselves by reducing energy consumption and utility bills.

With a district-appointed project manager called an ESCo — Energy Services Company — to oversee the improvements, a series of subcontractors have installed new lighting systems, water-saving plumbing fixtures and weatherproofing measures in all the schools.

Trout provided this update of what’s new and what is happening now in each of the schools:

Indiana Area Senior High School

“The senior high school looks like it should be in very good shape,” Trout said. “The roof will be done by the time the students are back, as long as we don’t get a lot more rain, of course. That schedule could change, but they are making some progress.”

To many people, the most dramatic change will be the absence of the buckets placed in classrooms and corridors to catch what was suspected to be rain leaking through the ceilings. But Trout said the dripping from above still needs to be verified. Some of the moisture could come from the mechanical system pipes.

“The HVAC is being insulated and they are putting the ceiling tiles back in,” he said. “Students won’t even see anything. Everything is going to be either on the roof or in the ceilings, so it should be back in place and buttoned up. That school should look the way it always has.”

Trout said some concrete in the Lower Commons area was damaged by heavy equipment, particularly a crane brought in to hoist ventilation equipment onto the roof, but the patching should be done before school starts.

“When they walk in, there will be some new things. Some new steps, some sidewalks; those are not a part of the ESCo project, but they will see things like that,” he said.

Ben Franklin and Eisenhower elementary schools

“We’re putting new roofs on and replacing the heating systems,” Trout said. “The roof is just about compete at Eisenhower, and they’re going to start (Thursday) at Ben Franklin. If the weather stays dry … and hopefully they will be complete by the time the students come back.”

A dramatic change in the heating and cooling systems is a switch from steam heat to hot-water heat, requiring new central boilers, pipes throughout the schools and heaters in each room.

“The unit ventilators for the heating system at Eisenhower, the parts the students see in the classroom, will all be in and operational,” Trout said.

The work at Eisenhower will take until October, and the project at Ben Franklin will be completed in November, but Trout said the students shouldn’t notice much activity.

“Some of that work will be insulating the lines under the crawl space,” Trout said. “At Ben Franklin, the workers will take the old boilers out and put the new ones in through a wall of windows that will have to be removed and that will be done later.

“They’re trying to get all the classroom unit ventilators installed before classes start. We will still have the ones in the hallways to do later, but the emphasis is to have the classrooms up and ready.”

At some times over the past year, construction work was being done during the second shift after classes were dismissed each day.

The remaining work will be done during day shift, Trout said.

“The insulators can work day shift because they’re going to be in the crawl space. Workers in the boiler room can be there during day shift, because the room and the noise will be isolated away from students and classrooms.”

Horace Mann Elementary School

Furnace replacement work was completed first at the district’s oldest schoolhouse, back in March, and the most critical parts of a roof replacement project were done during the Christmas break last December.

East Pike Elementary School

When the project first was planned, officials considered converting to a geothermal heating system but deleted that part of the plan. Lighting upgrades, installed in all schools at the same time, were finished in June, and students should see no other changes when they return to class.

Indiana Area Junior High School

The school underwent a massive facelift that was completed seven years ago, the most recent renovation in the district, and it required the least new work in this project. A new cover was installed on the swimming pool, and a more efficient boiler was installed for light-duty summer use. The work there was done in November.

o o o

The project appears to have some benefits for everyone. Students and teachers will enjoy a more comfortable classroom climate; the business office staff will be cutting smaller checks for the electric and gas bills.

Among the safety-oriented features, Trout said additional exterior lights have been installed at Eisenhower School. New telephone systems have been installed in Ben Franklin, Eisenhower and Horace Mann schools, the only buildings that did not have classroom phones in the past.

Remote control systems will give Trout and the maintenance staff the flexibility to monitor and adjust the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system — down to individual rooms — with apps on their iPads or smart phones.

In all, Indiana’s districtwide project is estimated to cost $14.9 million and reduce utility bills by $5.7 million in the next 15 years. More than $9 million of the work, such as the roof replacements and phone systems, is not considered a part of the energy efficiency project, but the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) legislation enabled the district to include those features in the project.

PHOTOS: Workers used a crane earlier this month to hoist ventilation equipment and other construction materials to the roof of Indiana Area Senior High School.  (Submitted photos/Indiana Area School District.)



Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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