By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
Even as students emptied their lockers and teachers tidied up their rooms at the end of this school year, construction workers were gathering to transform Central Schools into a construction zone for a third consecutive summer.
Some pipe workers were already onsite a month before school let out on June 1, ready to begin a final round of improvements as soon as the boilers were shut down for the summer.
"Everybody else was standing there with pliers and sledgehammers as the teachers walked out the door," said Superintendent Brian Corlett with a laugh.
Last summer the middle school was gutted for an office remodel and new air ducts, and this year it is the high school’s turn. By the middle of last week, one high school office wall had already been torn out and most of the ceiling tiles were gone, exposing a network of ducts and various wires.
The main focus of this year’s improvement efforts – getting the school’s upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system online – won’t be as visible to the public as major cosmetic improvements to the district’s buildings undertaken the past two years.
In 2010 the earth-sheltered elementary school was uncovered and given a new brick exterior with plenty of windows, and last summer the middle school received large new windows and the auditorium was completely gutted and refurbished.
Still, anyone entering the building on a hot fall or spring day will notice an immediate difference in comfort after this year’s improvements. Corlett said that simply having the new air handling system in the middle school this year, even without operational chillers, made a big difference in comfort for students and staff at that end of the building.
Two main exterior projects that will take place this year include the replacement of one final roof section on the high school and completion of a new concession stand and restroom area on the back side of the building near the football field.
Aside from the HVAC work, the main indoor project involves the remodeling of the high school office. The reception area and principal’s office will trade places, and glass windows will replace the brick walls that currently greet visitors entering the front high school doors.
Another improvement that sports fans will notice is new lighting in the old gymnasium similar to what was installed in the newer gym for this past year.
This year’s HVAC improvements, in addition to other work undertaken the past two years, was made possible by the approval of a $10.2 million referendum by district voters in 2009. When bids came in much lower than expected after the referendum was approved, the district was able to pursue additional projects such as the office remodels, re-roofing, lighting work and more.
School officials expect that the HVAC improvements will not only make the building more comfortable, but also help preserve computers and other sensitive equipment while unifying a somewhat disjointed climate control system. The high/middle school building was pieced together with six different additions in 1936, ’52, ’62, ’76, ’82 and ’95, and had several different climate control systems of varying quality.
After this summer construction at Central should subside for some time, though the school board has been discussing an expansion of the elementary building in order to accommodate students who are currently housed in buildings leased by the district.
If all goes as planned with the current construction, there should be time for teachers to get settled back into their classrooms before classes resume next fall. Corlett said the intention is for all work to be finished by the first week of August.
"Until our student population grows, we should be set up for a good number of years now," he said.