Monday, April 15, 2024

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$37.5M to be spent on air quality projects at 16 schools


Alamance-Burlington school system administrators also plan to complete $37.5 million in air quality projects with a portion of the money that ABSS will receive from the three Covid-19 stimulus relief packages that Congress has passed since March 2020.

ABSS is currently estimated to receive a total of $78.3 million from the three federal stimulus packages, ABSS finance officer Jeremy Teetor confirmed for The Alamance News. “There are other appropriations in the works from what I understand,” he told the newspaper Wednesday.

ABSS assistant superintendent Dr. Todd Thorpe briefly discussed the air quality projects with school board members Monday night. During a similar discussion about plans for spending the federal stimulus funding, he had said this spring that any improvements to school buildings must be directly related to air quality, circulation, and/or ventilation in order to comply with federal restrictions.

Air quality projects would be completed at 16 ABSS schools, based on a breakdown that was presented during the school board’s latest meeting (see accompanying chart).

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Thorpe didn’t specify a timeframe for completing those improvements. Nor did he specify whether the work would be performed by his staff in the facilities maintenance department, or if ABSS would need to issue Requests for Proposals from private contractors.

School board member Sandy Ellington-Graves asked Thorpe this week why improvements will be made at some schools but not others. “What message are we sending to the parents at those three schools [that are at the bottom of the list or schools that were omitted entirely]?” she asked. “I’m just trying to understand the logic.”

Thorpe said the list of air quality projects was based on the age and condition of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at each school. “We’ve got other needs, but they’re not as great,” he acknowledged. Thorpe said he and his staff had evaluated and ranked projects, from the greatest to the least needs.

For an example, Thorpe pointed to Sylvan Elementary School, which he said has an HVAC system that “isn’t that old” but needs a new induction system and control panel.

By contrast, the heating and air at Williams High School is powered by steam, Thorpe said. “Graham [High School] has a boiler that’s “pushing” its life expectancy “but the piping is really good [and] the HVAC is forced air,” he explained, adding that he and his staff initially estimated the costs at around $45 million when they started evaluating HVAC systems at ABSS schools earlier this year.

“It’s coming in about $27 a square foot,” the assistant superintendent said Monday night. “Our numbers are a little on the high side,” Thorpe added, alluding to the possibility that the federal stimulus dollars could be stretched in order to complete air quality projects at additional schools.

ABSS superintendent Dr. Bruce Benson pointed out that, were it not for the federal stimulus funds, “We wouldn’t be looking at potentially any of it right now.”

On a side note, Thorpe mentioned Monday night that “torrential rain” had fallen for 45 minutes in Graham on Sunday night, further damaging one of the roofs at Graham High School, where ongoing problems with leaks have been reported for years.

He said the rain on Sunday night has accelerated the need for a repair or replacement but didn’t specify when that work might get underway or whether it could be completed as part of the the $7.6 million in renovations and upgrades planned at Graham High School.

The renovations and upgrades are part of a broader plan to convert Graham High School to a specialty school for skilled trades once the county’s seventh high school opens. Those upgrades will be funded by the $150 million bond package that voters approved for ABSS in November 2018.

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