Summer construction season in full swing in city schools

Summer construction season in full swing in city schools

Rob Favali, a foreman with Martone Inc., installs a window in a classroom at Leo Savoie Elementary School as part of a summer project to replace the windows and boiler in the school. The project is one of several going on around the district as school officials prepare for the 2019-2020 year. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – Students and teachers might be absent from the hallways, but Leo Savoie Elementary School is full of activity this month as contractors from Martone Inc. work to replace every one of the two-story building’s classroom windows.

The project is one of several the Woonsocket Education Department is undertaking this summer to prepare its buildings for the 2019-2020 school year. According to district Chief Operating Officer Alfred Notarianni, the window replacement was prompted by repeat complaints from teachers and staff who pointed out the previous windows hadn’t been functioning well for some time.

“Basically they were just really old windows and we had a lot of problems with leaks, especially at the top of the classrooms,” he said.

The new windows include a fresh seal and have the capacity to be used as emergency exits on the first floor, a huge improvement over what was there before, according to Notarianni. The project also includes installation of air conditioning units to be used in classrooms with medically fragile students.

Rob Favali, a foreman with Martone, said the company plans to have the work completed by the start of the school year so as not to interfere with students and staff returning to the building.

“There’s a lot to get done before school starts. That’s the whole goal is to get everything wrapped up before school’s back in session,” he said.

In addition to the windows, Leo Savoie is set to receive a new boiler this summer after one of two existing boilers original to the building failed last year. The two boilers are being replaced with three smaller units, according to Notarianni. The two projects are expected to cost about $995,000, with an 86 percent reimbursement expected from the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Several other projects are also underway around the district, though none on the scale of the Leo Savoie project. At Woonsocket High School, a space formerly used as a woodshop is being refurbished to become a theater classroom, a project that includes new lighting and flooring. According to Notarianni, the space was left largely unused after woodworking was phased out of the high school curriculum, with students interested in those classes redirected to the Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center.

The WACTC was also the site of a summer project, with six classrooms getting a new coat of paint, though Notarianni noted most of the recent work on the technical school was completed last winter. After school officials discovered mold in one of the classrooms last summer, the district undertook a massive cleaning and ceiling replacement project that kept students out of the building for the first four months of the school year.

In the elementary schools, Pothier and Harris are both due for drainage work on their outdoor areas, with the Pothier work scheduled to start this summer and the Harris work currently being considered for the coming school year. Though the Pothier work is expected to continue into the school year, it is not expected to impact indoor areas or classroom space, according to Notarianni.

The Pothier-Citizens campus is also due to receive improvements in the form of a new fitness center scheduled for installation in the Citizens building this month. In the spring, the schools received a $100,000 grant from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils to transform a former classroom into a fitness center as part of a healthy living initiative.

At Globe Park, members of the Woonsocket Rotary Club have partnered with Lowe’s and school staff to undertake a renovation of the existing school library. Bernon Heights and Citizens are also getting new coats of paint in some classrooms this summer, and Leo Savoie is expected to receive a playground during the upcoming school year.

The new year also brings changes for district administrators, who recently began moving back into the McFee Administration Building after vacating the building in February due to ongoing issues with the heating system.

Since then, central offices have been scattered throughout the high school and middle school buildings as district officials considered the cost of repairs. Though there was some discussion of vacating the building permanently, said Notarianni, district officials ultimately decided to repair the 20-year-old HVAC system, a $136,820 expense. Unlike school building projects, the project is not eligible for partial reimbursement from the Rhode Island Department of Education because it is not used for student-related activities.

“We just bit the bullet and said we’re going to be here for the foreseeable future, we need to replace the heating units,” said Notarianni.

In recent months, he said, district officials have been meeting with an architect and project manager to determine their five-year capital plan, which will likely focus on roofs and HVAC systems. When complete, the plan will be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Education with the hope of obtaining some of the funds approved for a statewide school building bond during the 2018 election.