Summer work: Schools complete 90 projects in 42 days
Replacing wall-to-wall carpeting usually doesn’t involve moving thousands of books in the damp summer heat, especially not when the air conditioning has been knocked out. Oh, and the books have to be moved twice.
That was just one of the dozens of jobs completed by school facilities staff over the summer before kids came bounding in on Thursday.
“A big thank-you needs to go to my guys, busting their hump to get this done,” said facilities Director Joe Morits. during a recent presentation on his summer’s work.
“I always like to call this how I spent my summer,” Morits said with a laugh, as he opened the presentation.
In all, his crews completed 90 projects over the course of 42 days, Morits told the board. That included everything from replacing light bulbs and installing 849 new light fixtures to delivering 36,000 gallons of water, and putting down over 1,600 square feet of new tiling.
Putting down new carpeting in the high school’s library involved removing some 10,088 books by hand, cutting up and laying new carpet, and then putting the books back — all while the school was without air conditioning.
In the midst of the project, the school had a massive cooling tower on top of the school removed and replaced. “We replaced it with a three-piece all-stainless one — the last one was galvanized,” Morits told the board. He said the new cooling tower should be in service for the next 20 years.
High school bathrooms
Morits said his crews also refinished the worst of the student bathrooms at the high school, which had drawn criticism from members of the board and the public over their condition.
Workers pulled 20 years’ worth of tiling off the walls, and replaced galvanized piping clogged with “sediment” Morits said.
“We uncovered a lot of graffiti actually, from like 1970,” he told the board.
The walls were recovered with new tiling. ‘We’ve had teachers walk in and say ‘we’re using these bathrooms’” rather than their own, Morits said. Four more bathrooms still need to be upgraded, he said.
One of the largest summer projects was replacing the wood floor in the high school gym. Workers ripped up 10,404 square feet of maple wood flooring, originally laid in 1972, Morits said.
“It ambered up over the years with the polyurethane,” he told the board. In some places, the boards had buckled, after a sprinkler system burst and dumped gallons of water on the floor.
After the old gym floor was pulled up, workers cut out the steel track that held the boards by hand. “Every nail was rounded down,” Morits said, and new maple flooring was laid down.
Board member Tracey O’Connor asked if the new floor would be used only for sports, or if tables would ever be put out, potentially scuffing the new floor.
Principal Stacey Gross said the school still uses the gym for AP testing, because there is no other building in town with the amount of space needed. Morits suggested the school could put tarp down to protect the new floor from damage.
Elsewhere, the schools added several feet of sidewalk at Scotland Elementary to enable buses to unload and load kids more efficiently — a suggestion made by the previous school superintendent, Dr. William Collins.
At Branchville Elementary, crews painted over the dark green walls to brighten up the hallways. At Veterans Park Elementary School, the workers pumped out and cleaned a fuel-oil tank by hand before removing the tank with heavy equipment. At East Ridge Middle School, another tank was decommissioned in place and filled with a cement mixture, Morits said.
Throughout the district, school windows were treated with a protective film intended to make them more resistant to intruders.
The fire suppression system at Scotts Ridge Middle School and the high school were refreshed with a new valve. To do that, Morits said he had to empty a cistern that feeds the schools’ sprinkler systems, containing thousands of gallons of water, before the new valve could be installed. He then needed six pool trucks full of water to refill the cistern.
Morits said the district’s issues with leaking roofs had been fixed by the town — in part because of projects to install solar panels on several schools. “The roof issues that we experienced during the spring have all been fixed by the town,” Morits said, “because they’re actively doing their solar projects.”