With the end of the 2023-24 school year in sight, work on Phase II of the Saugerties Central School District’s (SCSD) $22 million capital improvement project is getting underway.
During a meeting of the SCSD School Board held on Tuesday, May 9, Jeff Andrews, a consultant with Albany-based BBL Construction Services, provided an updated timeline one day ahead of a groundbreaking ceremony at Grant D. Morse Elementary School for a stage addition intended to give the elementary school an equitable performance space when compared to others in the district. That work, and that of the entire project, is being overseen by BBL and Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting and engineering firm.
“Some that’s a little bit adjusted based on how we’re working with the contractors,” Andrews said. “So far with everything that we’ve got, even though we have had some issues just trying to locate where certain things are and match them up, we’ve been working very well with the contractors and they’re on target.”
According to Andrews, hazardous abatement will be undertaken during summer breaks both in 2023 and 2024. Roofing work on the Hildebrandt Building, which houses the district’s administrative operations, should be completed this summer. Work on all other buildings save for Riccardi Elementary will be underway during the 2023 summer break, including completion of Cahill Elementary roofing upgrades. Work at Riccardi will take place next summer.
The entirety of Phase II work is scheduled for completion during summer 2024, with project closeout set for fall 2024.
Voters approved the local tax-neutral $22,000,390 district-wide facilities improvement project in December 2020. According to the plan, roughly 66 percent of the project is covered by state building aid, 32.2 percent in retiring debt and the remaining 1.8 percent through a capital reserve balance.
Phase I work included the already-completed resurfacing of the Saugerties Junior and Senior High School track and the start of roofing projects that are still underway. Elsewhere, windows and flooring across the district are receiving upgrades. Each school entrance will be reconfigured to include a secure vestibule where visitors can be safely screened before being allowed to enter the building. The high school auditorium will receive a comprehensive series of upgrades, many for the first time since it was built in 1958. And also at the high school, deteriorating asphalt will be removed and repaved. That project is already underway, if not exactly as planned.
“We’ve separated the south parking lot,” Andrews said. “They are starting to do some of the investigative work. Part of that stuff is really needed as we’re starting to realize that some of the information provided on as-built drawings Tetra Tech is using isn’t as accurate as we’d like it to be. So we’re working on some move-arounds to allow us to keep progress going on here.”
Andrews also updated the district’s energy performance project, which saw work done on all school buildings, from installing LED lighting and controls, upgrading boiler plants, installing demand control ventilation, improving building envelopes, insulating pipes, and other HVAC upgrades. All of the energy performance projects have been completed, with around 70 percent of closeout documents submitted, said Andrews.
The anticipated $3,481,424 cost of the project will be funded by energy savings, said school officials.
Finally, Andrews updated the ongoing flooring project at Riccardi Elementary, with the remainder of the project set to be completed this June with closeout to follow during the summer. Abatement work undertaken at Riccardi during the spring break in April included the removal of asbestos tiles from sections of a hallway, the nurse’s office, faculty lounge and one classroom as part of a district-wide capital project. The tile removal project was completed on Thursday, April 6, at which time Quality Environmental Solutions & Technology, Inc. (QUEST) conducted an air-quality test and the district was given clearance to reopen the building as planned.
School reopened on Tuesday, April 11, and that afternoon there were multiple complaints about a strong odor, which experts determined was the result of a water soluble solution called Chemsafe 100 used to soften the glue to remove the tile flooring during the asbestos abatement, but was not itself related to asbestos. District officials said the chemical used to remove the floor seeped into porous concrete and adjoining plywood, with “off-gassing” resulting in the smell.
With both QUEST and Ulster BOCES Health & Safety conducting air tests starting on Wednesday, April 12, it was determined that there was no need to close Riccardi, and classes continued as before. The smell was reportedly strongest in the faculty lounge, and Ulster BOCES collected air samples from that room over a 48-hour period to check for volatile organic compounds (VOC), gases emitted into the air from certain products or processes. VOC’s can be found in everything from paint, wood preservatives, cleansers and disinfectants and dry-cleaned clothing. According to the American Lung Association, VOC’s are not all dangerous, but breathing some in concentrated amounts can irritate the eyes, nose and throat; can cause difficulty breathing and nausea; can damage the central nervous system and other organs; and can cause cancer.
For the first time since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Riccardi Elementary School shifted to remote learning on Monday, April 17, initially intended to last three days, but eventually extended for the entire week. That same day, QUEST collected air samples over an eight-hour period to test for 72 separate VOC’s using TO-15 canister devices, as well as taking further measurements using a handheld photoionization detector (PID) to measure levels of VOC’s in the air at specific times. The PID results were determined to be at normal levels, and the TO-15 samples were sent to a lab in Syracuse, with the results expected sometime this week. School officials pledged to post those tests results on a webpage dedicated to the odor remediation project (riccardi.saugerties.k12.ny.us/our-school/riccardi-odor-remediation)