School building's renovation represents costly proposition
When the board of education voted to close East Carbon High School a month ago, one of the commitments the members made was to try to preserve the building and move Petersen Elementary into the facility so the community would have use of the gymnasium and other parts of the structure.
However, the school board members apparently had little idea of what the price tag would be to renovate the East Carbon High School building.
But last Wednesday during a regular board of education monthly meeting, the panel members found out how expensive the project would be.
"The problem here is to bring this building into compliance with fire codes and other issues related to making it an elementary facility, it will take a lot of renovation," said school district maintenance director Deon Kone. "We have found as we investigated that, if we change one thing, we will have to do something else that leads to even more renovation in another area."
Kone indicated that the report to the board of education was preliminary and based primarily on his figures.
But the maintenance director said he tried to be as accurate as possible without involving an architect or engineers.
Kone's preliminary cost estimates fell in the range of $1.8 million to bring the school up to code.
"The biggest items had to do with meeting fire code," said the maintenance director. "To make it at all viable, we would either have to put outside doors on every classroom or install a sprinkling system."
"By far the least expensive option is the sprinkling system. But that ends up being expensive, too, because there is so much work that would be associated with it," continued Kone.
A sprinkling system would have to be run down the center of the ceiling in the main hall at the high school, pointed out the building maintenance director. That would mean removing the ceiling, which would destroy the carpet in the hall.
The carpet was installed years ago over vinyl asbestos tile. Replacing the carpet would require taking out the tile.
The maintenance director also said that, on the west end of the high school where the building is two stories tall, an extra stairway would need to be installed to meet regulations as well.
"Another major remodel would include putting in a proper separating wall between the gym and the old pool," stated Kone. "That needs to be done for fire code, but the way it is set up now it that area is used to move air into the building. That problem would need to be solved."
There are a number of additional areas that would need to be upgraded in and around the building, noted the district's maintenance director.
In the kitchen, the exhaust system would have to be upgraded. The kitchen would need a fire suppression system as well.
All of the restrooms in the building would need to be revamped to make the facilities suitable for elementary age school children.
The proposed kindergarten area in the high school's old shop would need to be remodeled and a special playground put in and fenced off for the young students.
In addition, the parking and bus turn around does not meet elementary school code so it would need to be changed as well.
After Kone's presentation board member Barry Deeter looked at the cost Kone had placed on the spread sheet before him and asked what a brand new elementary school would cost to build.
"Right now I would estimate about 4.4 million," said Kone. "However, recently I have seen some other buildings bid and the actual bids have been lower than the estimated costs. We possibly could be lower than that."
The question also arose about the age of the building and if with all the work the district would have basically a new building or just an old one, with some stuff done to it.
"We would still just have an old building," said Superintendent David Armstrong. "It would be renovated, but it the school is only five years newer than the present Petersen Elementary,"
As the board discussed the situation they decided that it would be prudent to hire an architect to look at the building and decide on a more accurate cost analysis.
"The fact is that unless we just shut the building down, we will have to hire an architect," said Kone. "There is nothing we can do in the building without one."
The board then agreed that one should be hired and it was decided that request for proposals will be sent out and advertised for.
In another matter relating to the closing of the school, board member Jim Leonard said that he is very satisfied with the effort district personnel are making toward absorbing the kids from the school into Carbon High and Mont Harmon Junior High. He was particularly pleased with a special meeting that was held with the parents and students the night before.
"I think people from our community enjoyed the meetings," said Leonard who hails from the east county area. "There was some hesitation at first by some, but the schools staff have made a huge effort in trying make these students feel comfortable. It has actually turned into a very positive thing. Hopefully the parents will support their kids."