$2.2M capital project proposed at Frank P. Long
The South Country board of education is considering asking voters to pass a $2.2 million capital project at the May budget vote. At a board of education business meeting last week, superintendent Dr. Joseph Giani highlighted the scope of the project, which includes replacing windows at the school and cleaning up an existing courtyard.
“[The existing windows and doors] are simply in a state of disrepair and must be replaced,” Giani said at the meeting. Architects are estimating that the windows and doors, along with associated masonry work, will run the district $1.8 million. “We were asked to take a look at some of the infrastructure issues over at Frank P. Long which relate to water penetration through the building,” said Richard Wiedersum, managing partner of the Hauppauge architectural firm Weidersum Associates Architects, PLLC. At a presentation during last week’s meeting, Wiedersum noted that the existing windows use a once-popular dual-glaze system that is no longer sustainable. This system uses glass for the interior pane and plexiglass outside. “They were used back 20-25 years ago for glass breakage. A lot of districts were spending a lot of money on repairs of glass,” he said of their popularity. “But they’re not technically energy-saving.”
The new windows and doors, Wiedersum said, would be energy-efficient and sealed to prevent water infiltration. “The building will be watertight when all is said and done,” he said.
In June 2017, test results from Enviroscience revealed that elevated concentrations of mold were found in Room 14 at the school. Glenn Neuschwender, who performed the testing, wrote in his findings that “the underlying cause of the moisture intrusion is the failure of the lintel above the window, allowing water to enter the window frame and accumulate at the sill.”
The testing was done in response to moisture intrusion and mold growth along the sill of a rear classroom window.
He wrote that a temporary repair would be repointing the masonry surrounding the lintel, but the entire lintel and window system should be considered for replacement in the long-term.
At the time, Neuschwender recommended that upon conclusion of the school year the room be emptied and sanitized from floor to ceiling using HEPA vacuums and anti-microbial cleaners.
Testing done later that summer, conducted on July 11, 2017, showed that all indoor spore samples were below average outdoor samples, thus safe.
In an interview Monday morning, Giani noted that there was no mold present in the building currently, but replacing the windows is sorely needed and will help prevent future water intrusion.
Board trustee Carol Malin wondered why the windows of the newest wing of the building had to be replaced. Bonded just over 10 years ago, the northeast corner addition is the newest part of the school, built in 1957. The rest of the windows, Dr. Giani said, were replaced between 20 and 30 years ago. “Why are we replacing things that were just replaced?” Malin asked. Wiedersum noted that the dual-glaze window systems promote condensation inside. Giani added that including the windows in that wing would not add many windows to the project. “They need to be done and it doesn’t make sense to leave out one wing, because you’ll be back at that wing in a few years or so,” he said.
The other $400K of the project would be put towards a new courtyard at the fourth- and fifth-grade school. Currently, the courtyard is underutilized and overgrown. “Our current maintenance requires bringing a lawnmower through the building to cut the grass,” Giani said at the meeting. According to Wiedersum, the firm looked to design a space that could have multiple uses. “We are proposing several uses of the courtyard to make it a more educational learning environment, while also addressing some drainage issues that occur from the roof,” he said.
The new courtyard would feature several rain gardens, permeable pavers, a “green wall” to improve air quality, raised garden beds for use by classes or the garden club, a STEM corner with math and weather activities, seating for students, reading and chalkboard areas and a turf lawn. “Turf is maintenance free,” Wiedersum said, noting that sand-based granules would be used in lieu of the rubber turf that is usually used for athletics. Trustee Lisa DiSanto wondered if teachers at the school were approached for their input on how to best utilize the space. Giani said that the design plans were posted in the faculty room, allowing for feedback.
Board of education president Cheryl Felice said that when she toured the courtyard at Frank P. Long, she saw the drainage issues and overgrowth firsthand. “I know the Bellport Garden Club has spent time with students in this area and is looking to get back in,” she said. “This is going to be a significant improvement from where it is today.”
The administration recommends the board use capital reserve funding as the source, which would require voter approval but would not result in a tax increase for the community. Earlier that night during a preliminary budget overview, assistant superintendent for finance and management services, Dr. Sammy Gergis, indicated that the district currently has $2,623,615 in reserve funding. “The money is already there. We’re just asking voters to allocate the funds,” Giani said.
Architects said that if approved, courtyard construction could be completed this summer while school is out of session. Window, exterior door and masonry work, however, would potentially continue into December 2018.
Though the board had previously asked administrators to consider installing a HEPA air filtration system at the school, Giani said the estimated cost was prohibitive. “It has an estimated cost of $3.4 million and would require the disassembly of most of our solar panels, thereby reducing the efficiency and savings gain of that initiative,” he said.
That project would have also required voters to approve a bond to fund that project. “Quite honestly, it may not be a good idea at this time to look at a bond when we’re looking to extend capital reserve money,” Giani said.
Instead, Giani is proposing placing portable HEPA air filters in each classroom. “While we are confident that the air quality at Frank P. Long is typical of what is found in indoor air, after speaking and meeting with faculty and parents, it is no doubt that placing these air cleaners in our classrooms would make faculty and parents more assured.”
The HEPA air filters can remove allergens, odor and dust and would cost about $24,000 total, Giani said. “It’s an impressive unit.” The board expects to make a decision on the air filters at their next meeting on Feb. 7, pending a meeting with the air quality committee at Frank P. Long.
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