Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Enhancing our Learning Environments

In my blog last week I talked about the importance of creating spaces in our schools that are warm and welcoming and encourage collaboration and communication.  On a larger scale, we have to look at the facility itself to make sure the building is contributing to a positive learning environment.  One of the six priorities in the Strategic Plan is to focus on enhancing the learning environment in our schools.

As part of our commitment to this, the division commissioned a report from Honeywell on June 3, 2016 that assessed the HVAC systems in all of our schools.  The report noted that many of our systems were well beyond their life expectancy.  For example, the HVAC roof top units at Smithfield High were installed in 1997 with a 15 year life expectancy and should have been replaced in 2012.  Windsor Elementary and Carrsville Elementary were also using outdated systems.

We are using the Honeywell report to prioritize systems for replacement and playing catch up to fix the situation as quickly as possible.  Both the Windsor Elementary and Carrsville systems completely broke down and were replaced this past summer at a total cost of $576,000.  The Smithfield High system has been added to the Capital Improvement Plan as a priority for next school year and is expected to cost $2,000,000.  Until then, we are monitoring the system daily because we know there will continue to be issues until the HVAC is replaced.

There are other big projects scheduled to improve the learning environment in our schools.  We appreciate funding from the Board of Supervisors for roof replacement for three schools—Carrollton Elementary, Carrsville Elementary, and Windsor Elementary.  Those projects will begin this fall. 

We are also looking at ways to enhance classroom space and shared spaces in some of our older buildings, like Hardy and Westside.  While we may want to see many of these changes happen soon, we realize both the funding and the work require detailed planning to make it happen.  Our school facilities and spaces send a clear message about our philosophy of education and an even more powerful message to our children and our employees about how deeply they are valued.  We are committed to facility improvements and will continue to address building needs through our budget in order to meet our goal of enhancing the learning environment in all schools.