Friday, October 17, 2008
Carlisle School’s Spalding Building – renovate or rebuild?
The Carlisle School Building Committee (SBC) has voted to request that a Special Town Meeting be held as early as January to authorize funding for schematic design work for a new school building to replace the 50-year-old Spalding Building and for renovations to other buildings on the campus. (See “Planning continues for Carlisle School Building Project” October 3). The Mosquito sought to answer a few questions about Spalding. What is its current condition? What are the maintenance costs? What changes to the existing Spalding Building would be required for educational purposes or to comply with new codes and regulations? What would a new building cost and what would its maintenance costs be?
Two recent inspections have highlighted the need for renovations or replacement of Spalding. In a 2006 survey of school buildings, the state assigned a rating of “4,” the lowest possible rating, to Spalding. This designation suggests that in the eyes of the state, Spalding may be a candidate for replacement. “The School Building Committee recommends the replacement of the Spalding Building,” says SBC Chair Lee Storrs. He explained, “The committee reached this conclusion after careful consideration of the building’s age, condition, handicapped accessibility, and educational suitability.”
The SBC is currently investigating a plan that would replace the 16,380-square-foot Spalding Building with a new 35,000 square foot facility that would house grades pre-K through 2. Space freed in the other buildings would be renovated to serve specific educational needs.
The Spalding Building was built in 1955, becoming the third structure, together with the Brick Schoolhouse and the Highland Building, on what is now the Carlisle School campus. According to David Flannery, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, the wood and steel framed Spalding Building was built when heating fuel was inexpensive. The building had little or no insulation, single pane windows, an oil-fired hot air furnace and an electric water heater. The exterior was brick from the window sills down, with steel and glass above.
The building provided six classrooms and a “multi-purpose room” which served as the gym and cafeteria. In 1963 a small brick addition was added to the south end of the building providing a kitchen for the new hot lunch program. According to Flannery, “The multipurpose room was used as a gym and a lunch room. It also had a stage for plays. Town Meeting and other town events were held here. From 1963-1988 it was the hub of the community.”
Renovation in 1988
In 1988 the interior of the building was redesigned. The area that had been the multipurpose room was divided into three new kindergarten classrooms and a reading classroom while the end of the room that was formerly the stage became an occupational therapy and physical therapy room. The original glass and steel exterior walls were replaced at this time with double pane windows and fiberglass panels in a move toward increased energy efficiency. Around this same time the hot air furnace and oil tanks were replaced with a natural gas furnace.
Spalding has been plagued by several recurring problems including roof leaks, water damage through the slab foundation, moisture in the interior walls, mold and termites. Parts of the Spalding roof are flat, covered with rubber, tar and gravel. The pitched areas of the roof are shingled. In the center of this shingled section is a flatter area that Flannery refers to as “the bowl,” Flannery notes that some of the decking below the flat areas of the roof has begun to rot and the water has caused ceiling damage in several sections of the building. During heavy rains and snow melts, buckets were set up in the hallways to collect the leaking water. Several areas of the roof have been replaced but as one area is replaced another area begins to leak. “We got through almost all of last spring with no leaking . . . but now we have new leaks,” he admitted, “We are patching. We pay five to ten thousand dollars per year in roofing repairs on Spalding to keep us weather tight.”
Mold has also been a problem for almost ten years. According to Flannery, water infiltration in the winter and spring, and condensation on the slab foundation during the summer have resulted in moisture in the interior walls. Eight summers ago the Spalding Building faced a particularly extensive mold problem that required the services of a flood drying specialist. Specialized equipment, protocols and training for facilities personnel is needed to keep the building mold-free. The school uses three large dehumidifiers during the summer and monitors the indoor air quality. Flannery believes that it costs between $3,000 and $5,000 per year to maintain and monitor the indoor air quality in the Spalding Building.
Last year ice and rain infiltrated under the slab on the south end of the building which is below grade. As a result of that flood, the carpet in that section of the building (previously a kindergarten classroom, now the health room) was torn out and replaced with tile for easier maintenance.
Six years ago swarming termites left their mark in Spalding. As Flannery points out, “They like damp, moist areas.” Use of poison sprays is prohibited in schools, so the school has contracted with a pest control company to use an approved bait system and to monitor monthly for termite activity. Flannery estimates the cost of termite control for Spalding at about $3,000 to $5,000 per year.
Storrs noted, “State education standards now require a bathroom in each kindergarten classroom. Currently, there are common bathroom facilities for all the kindergarten classrooms.”Also, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations require that separate handicapped-accessible bathrooms be available for children and adults. Flannery explained that there are currently no handicapped-accessible bathrooms for adults in the Spalding building and that the expense to rework plumbing for new bathrooms could create other problems. “When you renovate, once the cost gets to 30% of the building’s value, you must comply with all codes.”
Asbestos in some floor tiles and in the exterior wall panels has not been a problem to date. Flannery says that the school follows federal protocols to closely monitor the condition of the asbestos tiles to ensure that they remain sealed and in good condition. In less perfect condition, however, are the exterior wall panels. Paint on the panels has begun to peel. According to Flannery the peeling paint is best left alone. Although it does not look appealing, it would be expensive to prepare it for painting. Because of its asbestos content, any scraping of the surface would require specialized containment of the area, air quality monitoring, approved working protocols and product testing – all of which are costly.
Overall, Flannery feels that the building is safe. “The frame of the structure is steel. There is no structural deficiency. Annual inspections are done by the Fire Department and the Building Inspector. It’s safe, but it has its issues.”
Flannery estimates the annual building maintenance costs for Spalding at approximately $77,500. This includes items such as dehumidification, pest management, miscellaneous building repairs, roofing repairs, equipment maintenance, waste disposal, custodial work and supplies. He estimates an additional $58,000 per year in utility costs for Spalding. According to Flannery, “These figures represent the fiscal year costs associated with operating and maintaining the building as is. These numbers do not reflect capital maintenance projects or improvements such as exterior painting, asbestos panel maintenance, replacement of flooring, roof replacement, heating system replacement, window replacement, ADA code compliance, etc.”
Flannery estimates the maintenance costs of a new building of the same size to be significantly lower. “It would be a reasonable expectation for the utility costs in a new facility to be at least 30% less.” However, utilities and custodial costs may be higher for a larger building, and the proposed replacement is twice the size of the Spalding Building. Flannery notes that a new building would have fewer expenses, “We would not have the costs for the dehumidification or pest management. Building repairs would be less by at least 30% and no roof repairs would be needed.”
Superintendent Marie Doyle sees improvements in the Spalding Building as a requirement. She says that the federal No Child Left Behind Act together with recent state education reform legislation dictate that all children must receive a similar school experience.
In June of this year, the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) released the “Coordinated Program Review – Report of Findings” for the Carlisle Schools. In this report the Carlisle School was cited for, among other things, providing inadequate or inappropriate space for student support services, occupational and physical therapy and the English Learner Education (ELE) program (see www.doe.mass.edu/pqa/review/cpr/reports/2008/followup/0051.pdf). A new school building provides an opportunity to address those needs. Doyle says, “Education has changed. Suddenly we find we need smaller learning spaces.” Literacy specialists and the math curriculum coordinator meet with small groups of students. English Language Learners and students who need support services also meet with specially trained teachers or staff. This requires some small spaces that allow for quiet undistracted work. Doyle noted that even with this year’s drop in school population, there are often no empty classrooms for small group or individual instruction. “When Liz Perry [math] wants to work with a small group of students, they are usually in the hallway. That’s not the best way to work.”
Doyle pointed out that the occupational therapy/physical therapy room in Spalding is not an appropriate space since it is not handicapped accessible. Students who require those services must climb three steps to enter the room.
In addition, student support staff shares working space. “In the Wilkins Building we have 11 special educators in one room while in Robbins we have three special educators and aides in one room.”
Doyle favors a plan to replace Spalding with a building that better meets today’s educational needs and legal requirements. By moving the second grade and pre-K classes from their current location in Robbins to the new building, space in the other buildings would be freed up. This would allow the school to redesign space in those locations to better fit new educational requirements. Doyle notes that, among other things, the world language and music programs need additional space. According to Doyle, one of every four band or music classes is “dislocated” because the auditorium is being used for something else. “We get used to doing it this way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it.”
Cost of restoration
vs. new construction
A March, 2007 statement of interest submitted by the Carlisle School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority estimates the cost of restoring the Spalding Building at $4.1 million dollars. This would include replacement/repair of roofs, masonry walls, fiberglass wall panels, asbestos siding, windows, sealants, rotted wood trim and foundation cracks. According to Doyle, the current estimate for a new Spalding Building is approximately $17.5 million. The total planned project would fall more in the area of $22 million; this includes the cost of restoration work that will be done on other campus buildings at the same time.
Storrs explains why the SBC is not looking to renovate Spalding, “The School Building Committee is concerned that the town could spend a significant amount of money to renovate a facility that has reached the end of its useful life. In addition, because of the extent of the anticipated renovations it would likely be necessary to provide temporary facilities for students and programs while the renovation work is being performed. These temporary facilities would represent a cost that would not have a long-term benefit to the town.”
Storrs explained that the state has already agreed on the concept of replacing Spalding and renovating other buildings on the school campus. He notes, “If the town elected to pursue an alternate approach, this approach would need to be reviewed and approved by the MSBA to ensure it would not jeopardize MSBA’s potential participation in the project.”
The state has not specified an exact reimbursement rate for the plan to replace Spalding and renovate other buildings on campus. However, MSBA has indicated that the project would qualify for at least 30%, and Doyle is hopeful that Carlisle would receive reimbursement of up to 40%. “I feel that we need to move forward while the state has money. I feel a sense of urgency that this has to be addressed at a January town meeting.”
She added, “The state is favoring smaller projects and renovations. This is considered a small project and it is considered a renovation.” Doyle said that the state sees replacement of the Spalding Building as part of a campus-wide plan to address educationally driven space needs in an already existing school campus. The state sees this, she said, as “solving a district problem in a cost-effective manner.” When asked if she thought Carlisle would actually receive a 40% reimbursement from the state, Doyle responded, “I’m hopeful.” ∆
Spalding Maintenance Costs
The following estimates of annual expenses were provided by David Flannery, Carlisle School Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds:
Gas heating $28,000
Pest management $5,000
Misc. Building Repairs $15,000
Roofing Repairs $7,500
Equipment maintenance $8,000
Trash/waste disposal $2,000
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