As the 2019-20 school year began last September, the Armstrong School District faced several issues. Moist weather conditions all summer resulted in mold in West Shamokin High School that caused the delay of school while rooms were being treated.
Then hot temperatures made teaching very difficult at Dayton Elementary – the only building in the District without air conditioning. Superintendent Chris DeVivo said temperatures were above 90 degrees at one point in the building. He promised staff, students, and parents that he would address the issue with the school board.
ASD Director of Finance and Operations Sam Kirk said the District looked to a previous contractor for a solution.
“Reynolds Energy Solutions did the last two energy-saving projects at Shannock Valley and Elderton. We looked to them to come up with a scope of work for Dayton, based on what we wanted and needed, which was basically air conditioning. They came up with a couple of different options. One was to put a dehumidification system, which would take the humidity out of the air, but it wouldn’t be air conditioning. It is a less expensive method.”
In addition, school officials would like to install increased security system in the elementary vestibule. Reynolds estimated renovation costs at $1.5 million for both security and air quality enhancements.
“The Board asked me to explore other alternatives, so I contacted IKM Architecture,” Kirk said. “Their estimates gave us more bang for our buck than the original estimate by Reynolds.”
IKM brought in Tower Engineering Group to do a full inspection of Dayton Elementary. Tower Engineer Jim Kosinski gave the school board several options. The first option was to reuse existing ventilators in individual classrooms that currently only operate for heating and retrofit them to include cooling. However, much of the existing outdated system would continue to be used. That price was also $1.5 million although it added the air conditioning component.
Kosinski gave them another option which would upgrade lighting to LED less-expensive fixtures, and install a centralized air system on the roof that would serve all of the rooms, including offices. Old thermostats and controls would be discarded for new digital ones – something that Maintenance Director Dale Freehling whole-heartedly supported.
“It will reduce maintenance costs in the long run and save energy,” Freehling told school directors.
Kosinski said the renovation of the air delivery system, converting existing lighting to LED fixtures, and security additions would bring the project cost to $2.25 million.
IKM Architect Matt Hanson said the higher cost would result in an educational improvement.
“Studies indicate that when kids are comfortable and they can hear, and they can see – which refer to lighting, acoustics, heating and cooling – they perform so much better. In addition to the kids performing better, the teachers perform better. There is a much better learning environment, when we provide a better air quality and acoustic environment.”
Although DeVivo said he would like to see the project done this summer, Kirk felt that the renovation would not be done until the summer of 2020.
“We are too far into this year to design it and get it done this summer. Typically you want to go out for bids in November when contractors don’t have all their jobs scheduled for the following summer. They are more aggressive on their bidding and bids come in lower. Right now contractors already have their work scheduled for the summertime, and you don’t get as good of bids.”
Kirk said he believes the school board will authorize the architect to design the renovation sometime this summer. Once designed, it will be put out for bids in late Fall. Bids will be received in November and the school board could approve the contractor by end of December. However, the work would not be done until the summer of 2020.
Hanson said that waiting will mean the staff and students will have to tolerate warmer temperatures in spring and fall.
“It’s not an unhealthy school. You don’t have issues with mold as was the case with other schools,” Hanson said. “So it doesn’t have an unhealthy air quality environment, although all of the upgrades would improve the air quality substantially, and also the lighting quality, which helps with eyes and less headaches from florescent buzzing in the atmosphere that can cause harm to a student’s learning potential.”
Kirk said the renovation project would be paid for by using money from the $30 million that is currently in the Fund Balance cash reserve. He said by waiting, the project would be included in the 2019-2020 budget rather than adjusting this year’s budget, which ends June 30.