About 70 schools and one administrative site will be the beneficiaries of $33.5 million from the district’s voter-approved 2002 rollover bond funds. The money is dedicated to improving building and technology needs for students.
“(The) $33.5 million is being spent on a variety of projects ranging from technology-based to some environmental projects,” said Mikalee Byerman, district communications specialist for the capital projects department.
Although it’s not the most expensive work taking place – in 2009, upgrades cost $39.8 million – seven older schools will be more extensively repaired, an increase of three from last year. Those projects consist of more than half the total cost at $17.5 million.
With many classrooms of traditional schools empty, the summer months provide the best timeline to modernize the sites. Nineteen schools will get heating and cooling system upgrades at a price tag of nearly $1.5 million. Four sites will enjoy new gym bleachers and upgrades for ADA compliance. Sixteen campuses will have air and water projects and other vital work needed to keep students safe and comfortable in older schools that have sustained normal wear and tear throughout the years.
District officials will also hire contractors to replace parking lots and pavement, upgrade fire alarms and put in elevators and other improvements.
“It’s widespread throughout the district,” said Byerman. “We do most of the work in the summer months around scheduling for multi-track schools.”
Technology expansions in the classroom will be on the agenda as well. Some schools will have solar panels installed on rooftops to help the schools conserve energy, which will also benefit the environment.
Susan Kehoe, principal of Bud Beasley Elementary School, said her campus will receive solar panels on the roof, which are projected to save the district $14,000 per school per year.
“It’s quite a savings for 40 to 50 schools,” she said. “All that money goes back into the general fund, which is great in this time of these budget cuts. Not only are we contributing to the whole green movement, but also by having solar panels it will add an educational component.”
Kehoe said kiosks will be placed inside the buildings for students to learn about energy output and cost savings.
“It’s teaching kids sustainability and how to use more natural resources to help our planet,” she said.
The installation of the panels will not affect the year-round school, either, Kehoe added. All the work will be done on the roof of the buildings.
Other schools will have computer-based instruction labs built. Nine schools will have closed-circuit television security systems in place by the time the new school year begins. Security upgrades are an important aspect of the work, Byerman added. At certain campuses, classroom doors will also get upgrades to allow teachers to lock them from inside the room in case of emergency.
“It’s a very big priority for us to get (the sites) as safe and secure as possible,” she said. “They have valuable cargo on the inside of those classrooms.”
The work will also put about 450 workers with local contractors to work, which is expected to be a boon to the northern Nevada economy, Byerman said.
The district already has begun some pre-bid meetings to disseminate information to local contractors about the work needed. Today, for example, a meeting will be held at Dodson Elementary School in Reno to discuss Diedrichsen, Lenz and Palmer elementary schools’ boiler replacements that will cost a total of $200,000.
Principal Dina Ciaramella at Diedrichsen elementary in Sparks said the heating system needed to be replaced.
“Our heating systems are inconsistent,” she said. “Our boilers got antiquated even though it doesn’t look that old. It was built in 1981.”
Diedrichsen also will have its server room upgraded because the technology that handles the school’s Internet needs gets too hot.
The community can now access information and updates on these projects at www.wcsdfacilities.com. The site offers lists of facility data, projects and how they are funded, accomplishments and interactive elements that provide school information, current project initiatives and videos about the construction of Kendyl Depaoli Middle School and revitalization of Rita Cannan Elementary School. Vendors can also view bid information and results.