Town officials are confident the $7.55 million project to replace the high school’s out-of-code energy, electrical, and mechanical systems will be done in time for the start of the new school year.
The work was started last June to replace the high school’s 1960s-era windows in all 40 classrooms, as well as ventilation, heating, and lighting, all deemed inadequate and inefficient.
Topping off the problems list is the existence of hazardous materials in the window settings and elsewhere. These include asbestos and PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls, which are man-made carcinogenic compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine used in electrical equipment, paint, and flame retardant.
Project manager Ryan Benoit of O&G Industries told the Board of Education Thursday the work is on schedule with no extra costs.
“We’re looking to finish strong for Aug. 26,” Benoit said, “and we’re under budget. I can’t say for sure how much at this point, because there’s work still to be done, but if everything goes as planned, and we run into no issues, $50,000 or more will go back to the town.”
Three of the five phases are done, including work on the south and east sides of the building, Benoit said. The north side is 68 percent complete with one month to go, and on June 26 the last phase is scheduled to begin, the final 30 percent, in the west-side classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym lobby, and the administration and Board of Education offices.
And we haven’t had any loss of time,” said Benoit. He credited the cooperation of school staff and students for the efficiency of the work.
The old windows in each classroom and other areas violated building codes, and were single-glazed and drafty and lost a lot of heat. The unit ventilators also were inefficient and noisy and could not be maintained since parts are difficult to find. Also, the windows were too narrow for people to fit through in emergencies.
New windows have energy-efficient thermal insulated glass and panels, and to satisfy safety and emergency needs, the new wider windows slide and would enable students or emergency personnel to fit through in case of fires and other crisis situations.
The job also involves installing new ceilings, a much more efficient heating system per classroom to replace the old steam boiler heating from hallways, new cabinets and countertops, and LED lights to replace the old fluorescent bulbs.
Benoit said that already, 20-plus classrooms are completely updated and renovated, and that close to 20 two-story windows and panels are done as well.
Another major part of the project was abatement of the hazardous materials, the PCBs and asbestos, Benoit said. “They have been removed in all the classrooms,” he said.
Among mechanical and electrical upgrades, major parts of the project, are three rooftop energy recovery heat-handling units and the associated ductwork.
Energy savings may be considerable from the three large rooftop energy-recovery units. Each has a heat wheel that heated air passes through after exiting the building. Instead of the old steam-boiler heating system with all the heated air being blown right out of the building, the heat wheel recycles the air, recovering 70 percent of the heat and redistributing it into the building.
“It cuts down on operating costs on an annual basis,” Benoit said, “but it won’t be 70 percent.”
The state is expected to reimburse the town about $1.7 million.
The project was discussed in 2003, but tight budgets excluded it. Inflation and higher costs over the last 12 years added several million dollars to the bill.