School Committee prioritizes improvement projects

by Town Reminder

School Committee prioritizes improvement projects
Replacement of tiles, bathroom partitions among tasks

By Scott Feldman
Turley Publications Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – Making sure that the facilities in a school district receive the improvements they need in a harsh economic climate is a serious challenge. That is why the South Hadley School Committee must constantly update the priorities on its capital improvements plan.
On Wednesday, Jan. 26, members of the School Committee discussed the priorities of its six-year capital improvements plan at its last meeting to figure out what projects need to be worked immediately and which ones can be postponed. The plan they came up with will be presented to Town Administrator Paul Beecher for review.
“The town is asking us to begin a six-year projection. We typically do it five years out, but this year the town administrator would like us to give him something the whole town can look at six years out,” said School Committee Chairperson JoAnn Jordan.
The School Committee decided that five projects should be worked on this year (fiscal year 2012).
They are, in order of priority: Replacing half the floor tiles in the Mosier School at a cost of $120,000, spending $25,000 to begin the installation new floor tiles at South Hadley High School, buying a new walk-in freezer and cooler ($40,000), replacing the bathroom partitions at the Mosier and Middle Schools ($23,000) and installing a “point of purchase” system in the cafeterias ($25,000).
The plan was created after a lengthy discussion amongst the committee members along with input from of a variety of sources within the school system, including Facilities Director Bruce Mailhott, Food Services Director Matthew Hoagland and High School Principal Dan Smith.
“We go by their recommendations, we ask questions and then we try to figure out what the schools need,” Jordan said.
Getting the floor tiles replaced is a high priority for the School Committee, especially since the Mosier School currently has asbestos tiles. While they don’t pose any safety concerns right now, the tiles could become hazardous if they continue to deteriorate.
Purchasing a new walk-in freezer/cooler is something that the School Committee has wanted to do for quite some time. The current freezer and cooler have been around for decades and is extremely energy inefficient so getting a newer model would eventually pay for itself in energy savings. It also reduces the possibility of a breakdown that would severely hinder food service operations.
Most members of the School Committee agreed that replacing the bathroom partitions isn’t a pressing safety issue, but since the work required is relatively inexpensive and the partitions are so ugly, it was decided that this project should be done sooner rather than later.
The final improvement slated for this year is installing a “point of purchase” system in the school cafeterias that provides many benefits to the district’s food service. It cam tracks students’ spending habits so administrators and parents can find out what children are eating. It allows parents to buy meals for their children in advance using online technology, it also enables children receiving reduced cost or free meals a way to do so anonymously and will give cafeteria workers a better tool to track a student’s allergies.
There are many other projects that the School Committee plans to tackle over the next few years, including major ones such as replacing the lockers in the High School, installing a new telephone system for the entire school district and repairing the High School’s gymnasium floor.
This document is fluid and could be altered if new priorities pop up or the economic outlook changes. It will be reviewed on a yearly basis or as the committee deems necessary.
“This is for budgeting and planning purposes, so they [town officials] can look at the town as whole and see what the towns needs in the long term,” Jordan said.