Taconic Hills makes cooler students a priority

CRARYVILLE–The Taconic Hills School District (THSD) board reviewed a laundry list of 40 proposed capital improvement projects at a special meeting February 21. The data was prepared by SEI Design Group, the architectural firm the district used to conduct its Building Condition Survey (BCS) last year.

Matt Schools, SEI associate principal, attended the meeting to field questions and to clarify answers for the board. Also attending were Nicholas Smith, THSD director of facilities, Superintendent Neil Howard, Jr., and Business Manager Cybil Howard.

Board President Christine Perry suggested that the meeting start by dividing the 40 projects into categories of “need” and “want.” Broadly the projects address repair, replacement, or improvement to buildings, roadways and athletic fields. The data provided also enumerated the costs to replace, repair or upgrade each proposed item.

In the first hour the board discussed capital projects to add air conditioning for uncooled rooms on the second floor of the main building, upgrades to the flooring in main public areas, improvements to the public announcement system and upgrades to the pool area.

The board categorized main building air conditioning projects a high priority need. SEI Design provided a color chart of second floor rooms identified as orange or pink. Mr. Schools explained that the orange areas are the “hottest rooms because of their proximity to a black tar roof.” Rooms in the pink areas are somewhat cooler, but Mr. Schools cautioned against cherry picking which second room floors to cool lest “neighbors feud over air conditioned rooms.” Limiting air conditioning improvements to the orange area was estimated to cost $250,000. Cooling the entire second floor was estimated at $2.56 million.

The board consensus seemed to favor air conditioning the entire second floor.

The next discussion addressed flooring upgrades to main public areas, including the atriums to the main entrance, hallways and cafeterias. Comments focused on terrazzo and epoxy/porcelain finishes. Mr. Schools called terrazzo “the gold standard” of flooring, noting its minimal maintenance requirements. He added that epoxy finish is “terrazzo-like” and has 50–60 years longevity. He, also, noted that sound resistance varies with different epoxy finishes.

Board consensus seemed to favor terrazzo flooring for the atriums/main entrance and epoxy for hallways and cafeterias.

Superintendent Howard spoke about the pool building upgrades, saying the objective was to reduce the windows area by 50%. He noted that the doors and windows are the originals and Mr. Smith confirmed that they are the source of “most heat and cooling loss” due to “caulking cracking” and aluminum frames “wearing out.” Mr. Howard added that Hudson schools have “no windows” around pools and that New Lebanon has “very few.”

The windows replacement project is estimated at $90,000; however the board deemed it a “want” rather than a “need.”

The board agreed with Mr. Smith’s assessment that upgrading the public announcement system was a “need” due to safety concerns because of generally low volume and inability to hear in certain areas and in hallways during class transfers.

In the first hour the board also discussed briefly capital projects for the bus garage, including leveling the floor, which the superintendent described as a “potential workers comp case” and upgrading the boiler system either by repairs for $20,000 or replacement for $100,000.

By email after the meeting Superintendent Howard said the board did not vote on the capital improvements package at last week’s meeting.

Any capital improvement projects approved by the board would also need to win the approval of school district voters at a referendum later this year.

The next regular THSD board meeting is Wednesday, March 21.

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