A better school for our children

This blog is for parents who agree that our school building needs to be updated more than just a new roof and new boiler. We want better for our kids. We want the very old parts of our building redone. If you want to find out more, visit us often!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So sorry

I have been a slacker with this blog!  There is so much to update, but fundraisers for my daughter "F" have kept me busier than I planned.

But a quick update is this:  When the building committee last met, they talked about doing the project in phases.  Phase 1 would start next summer - and that would include the boilers, the roof, and any ADA work they thought they needed to do (nothing major, but a few good things).  The roof and boiler are being completely replaced.  The cost is several million dollars, but the state would reimburse 52% for the roof and 35% for the boilers.  So that reduced the cost significantly.

Phase 2 would begin the following year.  I cannot off hand remember all the info (Mr. Burr wouldn't give me a copy because it was just a rough draft), but it was things like electrical work, windows, ventilation.  My personal opinion is that this cannot wait for another year, but this is what was originally planned.

Phase 3 would begin the year after that and would include all the left overs - which wasn't much.  A few maintenance items and some wiring, really.  Honestly, the whole plan was like watching a balloon deflate.  Yes, there were needed maintenance items on the list, but the phase plan bothers me and so does the face that no educational specs. were put into the plan.

It looked like the whole thing would cost around $6-7 million when all was said and done.  But that is only if the state reimbursement stays the way it is now (which is highly unlikely), and if cost of materials doesn't increase during their 3-5 year phase plan (again highly unlikely).  So - we went from a $15 million plan with a rennovate as new (where we were going to pay between $7-8 million as a town), to a $6-7 million plan that would take many years and not have near the work that we would have had the first time around.

Doesn't sounds like a good deal to me.

The building committee was going to have its presentation to the Board of Selectman on October 5th to introduce their plan and see what the Board thought.  But Donna Leake, our superintendent, reviewed the plan and was not pleased.  She asked the building committee to go back to the table and include things like room enlargements and ed. specs.  Can I get a "yay!" for Donna Leake.

So - Elbert Burr emailed me and told me that the building committee would be holding off on meeting with the selectman until November 9th (mark it on your calendar). 

Then I got an fyi form the BOE stating that they are going to be meeting with the building committee next Wednesday - the 27th - at 7:30pm at the school.  It is open to the public, so please plan on attending.  This is going to be a great meeting - I am looking forward to seeing the Building Committee and BOE try to come to some resolve about what to do about our building.  I will be there, so I hope you will be too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Last post before the Last Building Committee Meeting

At least I THINK this is the last building committee meeting.  You can never really tell.

Anyway - a group of parents and I went to the Board of Education meeting last week.  I wanted to post what we heard earlier, but I could not find my notes.  But better late than never!

So at the BOE, the building committee and architect did a fast presentation of their proposal.  It still took about 45 minutes, but that was still quick.

Elbert Burr was the person who introduced the architect.  He talked about the charge he had from the selectman.  The building committee selected 8 key items from their original list of many many more than that.  (33).

So - we saw the same presentation we saw from the architect in August.  As some of you know, the building committee had a meeting on September 8th that was not posted so none of us knew about it.

And just so you know - the next meeting is September 23rd - at 6:30 - at the school.  It apparently isn't posted on the Town sight either.

Some of the talking points that the architect mentioned that he didn't mention in August, I will mention here.

1 - Roof - they need to replace to become thermal and possibly replace some siding and get rid of a non-functioning chimney.  Ice on the roof indicates heat loss.  There is minimal insulation in all roof areas except the 1994 side.

2- Plumbing - accessibility a problem.  There is lead solder in piping.  Sprinkler systems in the building will be state mandated in ALL buildings in near future.

3 - Direct/indirect lighting - want to go that way - more light reflects off the ceiling.  T-8 lights are in and they are very efficient

4 - COST.  This was what we were ALL waiting for.  Now - these numbers are rough, but close.  The slide presentation went very quickly, and I am hoping to get a copy of these numbers at the building committee meeting on Wed.

So here are the breakdowns:

Roof - 2 million.  52% reimbursement from the state
Exterior wall that is crumbling - $133,170 - 0% reimbursement from the state.
Windows - $435,528 with a 35% reimbursement from the state
Doors - $128,340 - 0% reimbursement (although I think these are ADA changes, so don't quote me on the 0%)

Ceiling - $585,129
ADA - $91,000 in work
Boiler $430,000 with a 35% reimbursement from the state
Plumbing - $717,000 with a 10% reimbursement from the state
Fire protection - $686,000 with a 35% reimbursement from the state (I don't have what the specifics are)
Mechanical - 2 million with a 35% reimbursement from the state
Electrical - 1.3 million with a 35% reimbursement from the state
Technology - $553,000 with a 35% reimbursement from the state
Lighting $530,000 with 0% reimbursement from the state.  If they add LED lighting, add $142,000 to cost
Special Systems - $260,000 (fire alarms, ADA devices

TOTAL:  $10 million with a reimbursement of 2.8 million from the state (from what we could tell).

So - roof and boiler - around 2.2 million
Windows and electrical - 3.5 million
Remainder - 5 million


So what do you guys think of these numbers?  Now, if you remember the first plan.  WAY back when.  It was a really nice renovate as new plan.  It was going to cost 15 million with a reimbursement between 35%-49% (just like above).  So - worked out at the most to be around 8+million.

How in the WORLD did we end up with a more expensive plan with LESS getting fixed?  How does that happen?  My guess is - a lot of time has passed.  And prices have gone up.  The biggest???  We are NOT renovating as new.  From what we understand, that would have brought us the best reimbursement and the best outcome.

But what we have here, is a proposal for a 10 million plan for 8 items.  Important things?  Of course.  All that needs to be done?  Not by a long shot.

And what is worse? (at least in my opinion)  They want to do this project in phases.  Phase one next summer with the roof and boiler.  They want to do the referendum in pieces as well.  Charge the town for just that work.  Then in another year or two, come BACK to the table, VOTE again, and do the next phase.

Okay - sidebar.  Raise your hand if you think once the roof is on that we are going to have a VERY hard time convincing tax payers to replace some walls and windows?  And possibly redo some air vents?  Uh - my guess is we are going to have a VERY small chance of getting that done.  Very small.

No one wants their taxes to go up.  But right now, our property values are down.  The only thing that draws people (young families) to our town is the school.  But a school in disrepair - with neighbors in Old Lyme and Ledyard that have brand new schools - isn't going to draw anyone.

When we moved our family here a few years ago - it was because of the wonderful school system.  But if we would have known that Old Lyme was gong to be building new schools, we probably would have moved there instead.  It will be a shame if people come to our town, see our 70 year old school, and move somewhere else because of that.  And they have a LOT of choices.

I could tell that the BOE was not all together happy with the end result of the building committees presentation.  They wanted to know why they didn't consider educational impacts - such as the size of classrooms (which we all know are 50% smaller than they should be according to the state).  And they want the ADA to be considered for quality of construction.

The BOE saw that the infrastructure and safety have been addressed, but not education.  So I will be anxious to see what the building committee comes up with in a few days.

And we parents will be there watching.

I don't want to have to call the ADA.  But I have to do what is best for my family.  And my daughter "F" has needs that may not be addressed in the first phase they are considering.  Once I see what Wednesday brings, I may not have a choice.

Come to the meeting Wednesday.  Hear what they are proposing.  Come give your thoughts - there is a public comment at the end.

I will post what I learn on Wednesday at the meeting!  Keep up to date!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Building Committee Meeting 8/11/2010

Last night was the newest Building Committee meeting, and myself and a few other parents were able to attend.  I have to say - we are very welcomed at these meetings, so I encourage everyone to come and listen.  You will receive tons of information so that when the vote comes to referendum, you can make an informed decision.

That being said, last night was the architect's chance to present his proposal to the committee and for the committee to ask questions.  And then the public could ask a few questions.

The architect for this project is Hugh Pearson.  Some of you might remember that he was one of the architects of choice the last time, but was not chosen for the final project.

Present Building Committee Members were Mr. Burr, Mr. Bourdeau, Mr Lyden (first selectman), Mr. Green (also on BOE),Ms. Woronik, Mr. Asafaylo, Mr. Bernier, Ms. Traggis.

The architect started by saying that he was presented the 8 areas that the building committee wanted to address (from the original list the BOE gave them, which was more like 22 items - see previous posts).  As a reminder - the Building Committee has chosen these points to address:  Roof, Exterior Walls, Windows, Exterior Doors, Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical, General Building Lighting, and Energy Conservation Rebate Program.

The architect stated that he knows that the Building Committee's charge is to get the most efficient work with the least cost.  He talked about Hazmat issues; stand along projects vs. combined; how long it might take; and the cost and possible reimbursement from State of CT.

So - this post might be kind of lengthy, so just bare with me.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit back and absorb the information.  I want to post everything that was presented, because I know many of you could not attend the meeting, but are very involved in making this decision!

So here is what the architect recommended/found:

-Various ages and materials: at or past useful life in the 1940's-1988 sections
-1994 addition: consider replacement with full facility, reduced reimbursement 15%-20%?
-Supporting structures need to be addressed;  - wood, concrete, steel deck)
-Current leaks, deterioration, and mold potential all an issue at the current time
-Limited insulation value: heat loss/gain
-Solar reflective surface needed
-limited drainage slope and overflow: ponding water to air intakes - very flat roofs and state mandated getting  away from flat roofs.
- architect is anticipating future systems work
- definite deck repaire required for 1956 part of the building.]
- roof priority #1 on the list

Exterior Walls:
- 1940: stone, vinyl siding; minimum insulation.  Consider strip out interior to add insulation, new interior finish.  Old vines found under vinyl siding; moisture and insects could be getting in.  Consider residing in conjunction with re-roofing.

- 1956: Brick/CMU no insulation
- 1963: brick/CMU no insulation (wall below windows requires structural bracing)
- 1973: Brick/CMU: no insulation
- 1988: Brick/CMU rigid insulation
- 1994: Brick/CMU: rigid insulation
- anticipate future systems work with window/door replacements
repoint masonry, re-seal control joints.
-architect request redoing walls in 1940s section
1963 - wall no up to code and wind force standards.  It is not costly for steel supports
- work with walls goes with work on doors and windows


- 1940: wood single pane glazing, storm sash added - replace.  Original window reduced for thermal improvement.  Consider new windows to match original opening.  Double pane to reduce UV and reduce heat loss was the recommendation of the architect.

- 1956: Aluminum, insulated glazing - update recommended.

-1963: original single pane metal framed - replace.  Associated structural support work required for wind loading of wall.

- 1973: aluminum, insulated glazing; failed seals, non-thermally broken frames - replace.

- 1988: aluminum, insulated glazing, could remain or replace for consistent appearance and improved performance.

-1994: Aluminum, insulated glazing, remain.  a few exceptions of failed glazing seal require replacement.

- New windows: thermally broken alum. frames, insulated glazing with UV-thermal films, properly sealed to adjacent walls
- all student rooms REQUIRE escape windows or doors.

Salem School: Exterior Doors:

- replace most exterior doors (1940-1988) for thermal performance, security with hardware upgrades and controls, keying.
- create vestibule areas where possible for security, dust control with mat systems, and thermal improvement
- update openings for ADA accessibility with corrected dimensions, hardware, door operators.
- consider overhangs where missing
- ADA will have a lot of say in doors.  If you open the ADA window, a lot will have to be done - more than they are expecting.

Salem School Plumbing:

- update plumbing fixtures for ADA accessibility with corrected dimensions, stalls, grab bars, mounting heights, etc.  (will be larger bathrooms)
- update plumbing controls for water conservation
- toilet rooms may require full renovation or expansion to meet the above criteria.  Consider full ADA vs. limited "accessible route" compliance.
- accessible sinks in classrooms will impact adjacent millwork.
- past ADA changes may not meet current clearance and mounting height requirements
- locations and number of fixtures is code controlled.
- lead solder piping? (I am not sure about this one - I think this is what most of our piping is)
- exterior grease trap needs to be added - mandate for 2011.
- architect knows there is no intent to add Sprinkler Fire protection.
- HOWEVER - courtyard classrooms REQUIRE (repeat REQUIRE) sprinklers.
-hazardous areas: boiler rooms, storage REQUIRE (repeat REQUIRE) sprinklers.
-Combustable construction (in 1940, 1956 areas) REQUIRE (repeat REQUIRE) sprinklers above and below ceiling plane.
- renovation project would result in full building sprinkler system with storage tank and fire pump.

**side note - building committee is STILL trying to get around not having sprinklers in the building.  Yeah - we will see what ADA has to say about that.

HVAC (1940-1988 sections of the building)

- Boilers, with burners, hydronic piping and controls require replacement and upgrades
- Existing boilers do not have adequate capacity for extreme days; and no redundancy if one should fail.
- provide a source of combustion air to boilers for improved operation
-increase efficiency in conjunction with building envelope improvements (lower demand)
- provide and increase ventilation (more than operable windows) in older portions (40-73) for improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
- IAQ is tied to proper learning, good health
- No AC needed for '40-'88
-Consider age of oil tanks: 10,000 gal in frotn of the 1963 wing, installed in 1987 (architect recommends replacing since it is older that 20 years old)
- consider CO2 monitoring throughout; also in 1994 building
- boiler room should have a second exit
- boiler controls are pneumatic, consider direct digital control boiler room only; expand to full facility
- Air Quality testing during occupied or unoccupied

Electrical (1940-1988)

- New electrical service should be considered, may be required for any added loads due to HV(AC) or program.
- Some tradeoff of loads could be realized through lighting replacements upgrades
- revised/new distribution is required for current educational program, avoid brownouts, etc.  Then then can add more outlets in classrooms.
- no system surge suppression, or 'clean' power
- generator adequate for school, not emergency shelter
- limited upgrades to technology in place: smartboards, projectors, in-room sound systems
- assess rooms acoustically
-current installation provides data drops per room, separate computer lab
- full building wireless - already done
 - computers on wheels - 2 carts already in place
- change out Tv's for projects (whiteboards not chalkboards)

Lighting (1940-1988)

- Generally flourescent lighting fixtures throughout, surface mounted or ceiling recessed direct downlighting
- current T9 lamps with electronic ballasts are efficient
- replacement: consider direct-indirect similar to 1994: even light levels, less glare
- LED lighting would reduce electrical consumption; significant first dollar cost; possible utility rebates
- Manual switching should be converted to occupancy sensors (but this is expensive)
- coordinate with window replacement for daylight control to utilize less energy

So - according to the building committee - their priorities are like this (and next to it is if there is possible grant money)

Roof - 1 - state DOE
Exterior walls - 1 at 1963 part (no grant)
Plumbing - 1 - State DOE - ADA
Boilers - 1 - utility (partial?)
Ventilation 1 - (no grant)
Windows - 2 - State DOE - energy conservations
Exterior Doors - 2 -? ADA
Electrical - 2 (no grant)
Energy conservation rebates - 2
Lighting - 3 (utility)
Exterior walls - 3 in ever area except 1963 (no grant)

The good news?  For the year 2011 - the reimbursement max for Salem is 52.14% from the state.  This is almost 2% higher than last year!

The bad news? We have only 488 students in a (are you ready for this) 100,567 square foot building.  The size the state thinks our building SHOULD be?  68,382 square feet.  Yeah.

So - based on the fact that we have about 40,000 square feet of WASTED space (since we all know that classrooms is not where the square footage is being used).  AND because of that (because the state doesn't care if it is wasted or not - the fact is - our building is too big for the number of kids we have)  - we would only be eligible for 35.45% if they do a full renovation.

Okay - now before you get excited - this is an AVERAGE.  Let me explain.  The architect thinks that things like the roof, and ADA stuff - will all get the 52% reimbursement - hands down.  BUT - some of the other things might only be eligible for the 35.45%.......  It is a bit confusing, and until the architect comes back with some cost numbers on the projects, we won't really have any idea.

And - as Kevin Lyden told us - the last time they took the renovation to the state, the state told them that if they built a NEW school.  (like tear down, build new COMPLETELY) and made the school the 68,382 square feet, they could do it for $30 million AND (here comes the best part) we could get the 52% reimbursement.  SO - we could get a brand new school from around 15 million.  Hello????

But what is being proposed now would cost - off the record - around 7.5 million give a few million.  Better than 15 million?  Yes.  But better than a brand new school for around 15 million?  Heck no!  Now - I know that really isn't in the cards, but after Keven Lyden told us that - wow.. it got me thinking.  The plans are to fix 8 areas of around 7-8 million (maybe more - who knows) and it will take years because they are thinking about doing it in phases (I will get to that).  Does that really make sense?  Not really.  But again - that is just my opinion.

Now - about the phases - the building committee is leaning heavily on doing things in phases, and I think Kevin Lyden backs this idea.  I think this is a terrible idea, and I know quite a few parents who agree.  Phase one would be like the roof and boiler (and - just so you know - anything that my daughter requires ADA wise).  That would take place next summer - 2011.  The boiler and roof are just going to have to make it one more year.

Then phase 2 would be things liked the electrical and windows - probably the next year (2012).  They would continue to do these little phases over the next several summers.

Again - my opinion.  Wouldn't this be MORE expensive in the long run?  The plan would be to go to referendum EACH phase.  So they would get the pricing around the time they were ready to do the work.  right now - the windows cost around $900/piece.  What are they going to cost 2 years from now?  How is this a better choice?  Is this really saving the town money?  It isn't like we are paying out of pocket all up front.  I just don't understand why we wouldn't go to referendum with the WHOLE plan right now - and get the state reimbursement at what it is right now.  In 2 years - the state reimbursement could be 40%.  right?  Not 52%?  Why take chances when the reimbursement this coming year is really good for Salem?

Back to the Meeting:

The committee asked the architect some questions after they heard the presentation.  Here are the questions and answers.

Question If the 1994 section of the roof was included in the renovation, would that portion of the renovation be 35%, but the rest of the roof 52%?

 - Answer: yes.  And it is not all seemless - the 1994 side would be a separate roof piece no matter what.  It is 16 years old - may last another 10 years, but 20 years is around the time you want to replace a roof.

Question - Does the roof have to have the slope?

Answer: yes - new pitch requirement of roof.  No reimbursement if no slope is done.  Also - has to have more insulation and that expense is included in roof reimbursement.

Question - What percent of the WHOLE roof is 1994 side? 

Answer: 43% of the roof is on the 1994 side.  That side has a slight slope right now, but not up to current code.

**Building committee agreed that doing all roof might be the best option.  (although consider that 800,000 for the 1994 side could be used on the side that REALLY needs remodeled)

Question - Will you need more roof drains?

Answer: architect doesn't think so, but may need to in older section.  Would be included in the cost.  The 1963 and 1973 sections - would be worth changing.

Question - If we make a decision to not use the courtyards for kids, could you do away with sprinklers?

Answer: no.  even if sealed off, those classrooms MUST have access to outside, so STILL NEED SPRINKLERS.  Need to be able to egress to a safe area.

Mr. Bourdeau spoke how they did an IAQ and CO2 check in a classroom with children in it and levels are fine.  BUT - here is what you need to hear - the REASON the levels are good - they are getting a lot of air in because the windows are not sealed well.  So - fresh air leaks in, which keeps the levels within normal range.  Agreed that if we put in new windows and close off and seal the joints, the IAQ will go down.  So the demand for more ventilation will be needed.

Answer - yes.

Question - What will state reimburse

 Answer:  guaranteed that roofs and ADA work will be reimbursed at 52%.  BUT - you have to do the whole building.  They are not going to reimburse for just a job here and a job there (ADA) - from what I could understand.

**architect said that no waivers are being accepted for anything except for roofs and ADA compliance.  If they do a bathroom - to make it ADA compliant -  the state will pay for the handicap parts at 52% - not the rest of the renovation.  He wanted that to be clear.

Question - as far as electrical - what do you need us to do?

Answer: strip out and start over is EASIER than figure out what is needed to be fixed.  (redoing all redistribution wiring).  Need to rip out exterior walls and replace insulation to get to electrical.

Question - what would the time line be for - example - the roof?

Answer: could be at the state in 2 months.  Construction would take one whole summer.  Although there may be asbestos, and that may cause it take more time.  Also - to get whole reimbursement, the work would have to be started from the deck up - everything needs to be replaced.

Question - talk more about the boiler project

Answer: could be done fairly quickly, but need to get to next summer so you can do work without the kids in the building.  It is going to take time to find the right boilers.  Recommend to do the whole project all at once to get the best price.  Engineer will know what they need by this fall.  Board of finance may have to be involved.  The whole room is going to need to be done with combustion air and will need ventilation of its own.  Will also need its own electrical.

Question - Explain outside walls in 1963-1973 section

Answer: The outside walls - structure needs immediate attention.  It is deficient and would not hold up in strong winds.  The state would look at this as a maintenance item, and not eligible for reimbursement.

Question - what is going on with the 1940's walls?

Answer: there is a potential that moisture and insects have gotten into that section of the building.  If mold is in there, it may be weakening the studs.

Question - what about windows?  

Answer: 1963 section is the worst.  All windows are required to be escape windows, unless there is a door that leads to the outside.  (NOT the courtyard)

Question: what do we need to do with bathroom to make ADA compliant?  For example - bathroom near Kindergarten needs accessability

Answer: it is not up to code if you cannot get a wheelchair through the door.  Suggests doing all bathrooms, because that is what ADA will want, but at least need a 7 foot by 7 foot unisex bathroom for the handicap.

**End notes - the public did get to ask questions.  I asked about ADA stuff since it pertains to my daughter.  And honestly, I don't want to have to call ADA in (I already made a call to them to ask how it works if school renovation doesn't go through).  Kevin Lyden and Elbert Burr ASSURED me that my daughter's needs were at the top of the list.  So we will get SOME ADA work done.  But - we have a student that is very hard of hearing - what about her?  We have a student in a wheelchair...what about him?  We have family members that are handicapped.  So - what about them?  The whole building needs to be handicapped accessible - not just the Kindergarten wing where my daughter will be.  This is a public building.

Are you still awake?  I hope so! :)  Hopefully I will see more and more parents at the building committee meetings.  And I am thinking we need to have another parent meeting soon, so stay tuned for a date for that.  Just remember - you can't complain if you aren't involved, so no matter which way you want to see this renovation to go - you need to get involved.  For or against - whatever the outcome - if you aren't involved, then you can't complain later!!  So come out and listen to what the building committee is proposing.  They are looking for public insight.  They want to know what parents think.

You can contact me at any time if you have questions, or suggestions, etc.  I appreciate you taking the time to stay informed for your kids.