With just a week to go until school starts, I am thankful we are finishing the 'punch list' for the early childhood wing in the elementary school. Over the last couple of weeks, I have enjoyed giving tours and explaining how the project evolved over the course of defining the scope of work; to planning, design, and execution. A long time coming, this renovation was first envisioned in the strategic plan titled, 'Hudson 2020' adopted by the Board of Directors in 2013. Isn't it awesome that a vision laid out in 2013 continues to guide us today? Not only does this honor the work of previous boards, but it gives the current board the latitude and flexibility to meet the needs of our students and community in 2017. Recommendation #4 broadly asks the Board to prioritize renovation of the elementary without boxing them in to include any specific scope of work or project.
We began this task with many work sessions that included brainstorming projects that needed to be addressed in our elementary school. Working in consultation with our School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC), we were able to narrow the scope of this work into different projects and priorities. Rising to the top of the list of priorities was the replacement of all the windows in the facility. With a single pane of glass, the seals were beginning to break down and they were not all that energy efficient. Teachers reported that in the winter wind would blow through unsealable gaps, making it cold. Obviously, some of this could be attributed to the window air conditioners we use to keep the rooms comfortable during those periods of hot humid weather.
We have also improved our energy efficiency in this wing by replacing all the lights. The light fixtures in the elementary school are currently fluorescent bulbs, which are not very efficient by today's standards. So it was determined it would be a wise investment to replace all these fixtures with LEDs. Not only are they more energy efficient, but they have very little maintenance associated with them. This new lighting is also designed in a way to complement the natural light that comes in through our windows. On a bright sunny day, the LED lights will automatically adjust to the amount of light that is needed in the classroom by using a photo cell mounted in the ceiling. Further, if there is no one in the room, the lights will automatically turn off.
Perhaps the number one priority of the school board was to make our competition gym handicap accessible. Navigating the stairs on the North or South end of the valley has always been the primary way to get into the competition gym, and not all that practical for those who use walkers or wheelchairs. For years, the only way for our patrons in wheelchairs or walkers to enter the gym was to come through the emergency exits on the East end of the gym. Many strategies were discussed that included installing an elevator, putting in a lift, or installing a ramp. Ultimately, the Board decided the best course of action was to remove half the steps on the South side entrance and create a ramp, which turned out great! By the way, if you are visiting the district and need to access this ramp, we have three handicap parking spots right outside this entrance.
As we continued to identify and refine the scope of this work, it became obvious the entire project could not be completed at one time over the course of the summer employing the financing strategy that has been the goal of this Board. For example, the estimated cost to replace the windows in the entire facility was estimated at over $550,000. That is the sum the Board had budgeted for one year in renovation expenses. We discussed the option of completing each of the different phases of the renovation as a stand alone project, but that idea was abandoned at the advice of our architect, engineer, and local contractors. They recommended a renovation where we completed each section of the building at one time so we only have to contend with demolition in one area of the facility at a time.
Now that this phase of the project is wrapping up, it is time to start considering phase two of the renovation. We have the benefit of hindsight and have clearly articulated the scope, it will be up to the board to decide which area of the building to tackle next and how best to finance the project!