It will cost about $1.9 million to revamp the air conditioning system to the 7-year-old Bethel Park High School building.
The school board learned of the cost estimate at its committee meeting Jan. 15 and is expected to take action at its Jan. 22 voting meeting to decide whether to approve a contract with Trane Inc. to install upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment that will nearly double the cooling power of the existing system.
The work will take place over the summer, with an expected completion date of Aug. 10. The first day of the 2019-20 school year is tentatively slated for Aug. 19.
The base price for the HVAC project is $1.6 million. The district’s maintenance supervisor also recommended an optional upgrade to install variable frequency drives to the system. The upgrade will cost about $300,000 more, but the district should see energy savings, since variable drives are supposed to make the system more efficient as well as more reliable.
The high school, which opened its doors in 2012, probably had an undersized air conditioning system from the beginning. The problem is most noticeable on 90-degree days, which are relatively common in the beginning weeks of the school year. The existing system is not able to cool the building adequately on extremely hot days.
In another matter, the board will consider buying STEM Maker Lab kits from the National Inventors Hall of Fame for elementary students at the Jan. 22 meeting. Children in grades kindergarten through four will work on various projects relating to science, technology, engineering and math.
Curriculum coordinator Elizabeth Wells said the students will probably experiment with the kits in April, during days in which many of the students take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.
“I think it will give the kids a little break from the tests to do something fun that’s also very educational,” she said. “We’re really excited about it.”
The STEM Maker Lab will feature activities that are similar to the weeklong day camp, Camp Invention, which is held at Neil Armstrong Middle School in the summer. National Inventors Hall of Fame of North Canton, Ohio, sponsors both the day camp and the STEM Maker Lab.
The board called for some changes to the proposed calendar for next school year. The board will consider approving the calendar at the regular meeting.
Director Pam Dobos asked that the district no longer use Martin Luther King Day as the first potential make-up day, in a response to an email that school board members received urging them to keep the holiday to honor the civil rights leader. Other directors seemed to agree.
Dobos also expressed concern about the first day of school, arguing the school year will start too early, with the first day slated for Aug. 19.
“I have no idea why we would want to start in the middle of August,” she said.
The schedule also calls for a longer winter holiday break, although those days could be used as make-up days if needed.