Millions lined up for summer school renovations

By Jason Hawk -

Bulldozers are rolling on South Lake Street, but construction of the new Powers Elementary is far from the only major project this summer for the Amherst Schools.

Millions have been set aside for other buildings and grounds updates and work will ramp up as soon as kids run screaming from the classrooms on the last day of school, which is May 31.

Already underway is a $2.26 million heating and air conditioning upgrade at Steele High School. The project is funded by the same bond issue that is paying for Powers construction.

Bay Mechanical & Electrical was hired in October and is on track to complete the job by Aug. 10. The firm was hired after a previous round of bidding came back $600,000 higher than expected.

With the pricing now under control, work has started and can be seen from the rear of the high school. When complete, cool air will be available through the entire building, providing relief to areas that previously sweltered in late spring and early fall.

Demolition is expected to start June 1 in the Amherst Junior High School library, which will be converted to a creative learning center like the one opened this past year at Steele.

The project price tag is $225,000. The Amherst Schools Educational Foundation has pledged $120,000 toward the cause; also offsetting the cost is $105,000 that was left over from last year’s Steele library and south gym renovations.

The board of education hired the Knoch Corporation of Canton to complete the AJHS work.

Up next is a $415,000 replacement of the leaky roof at Nord Middle School. The school board approved a contract April 16 to have West Roofing Systems of LaGrange take the job.

“We have known for a couple of years that was needing to be done, and approximately what the number was, so we had been planning for it,” said superintendent Steven Sayers.

He’s hoping the roof will be done by the end of June, which means work has to start the day after school ends.

Another $25,000 is earmarked for painting the gym and lockers at Nord and replacing old stalls in the school’s bathrooms.

The board has also set aside $180,000 for technology, including scanning, a server upgrade, and a backup generator. Sayers said those costs stem from a contract with Strategic Solutions, which was hired in the fall to assess the district’s records.

In January, the firm picked up boxes and boxes of paperwork to determine which need to be digitized and which should be discarded.

Back at Steele High, educators are finalizing plans for the creation of an orchestra room. The orchestra program was launched in late 2015 and started with fifth-graders — they’ve moved up and are now freshmen.

The orchestra won’t use the existing band space, but a room on the west side of the building instead. Sayers said soundproofing, chairs, musical stands, and other equipment are needed with an estimated cost of $50,000.

Other line items on the summer permanent improvement list include $50,000 for patching and sealing of parking lots as needed, $25,000 for landscaping, $15,000 for a mower, $10,000 to buy a used van, and $5,000 for miscellaneous maintenance equipment.

The board has also set aside $100,000 in contingency funds to cover those projects.

Sayers said he believes the spate won’t eat up the entire summer budget and the school system will be able to tackle even more items.

For example, an analysis by building and grounds director Chuck Grimmett showed LEDs are more cost-effective than the existing bulbs in the Steele and AJHS gyms. Officials hope money will be left over to replace those lights, which would pay for themselves through electricity savings over the course of two years.

There are already a few LEDs in use at the junior high gym. “You can just see it’s a huge difference in lighting. You really notice it,” Sayers said.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk