Desks have been pushed to the side and ceiling tiles pulled down by workers in a $2.26 million effort to provide air conditioning throughout Amherst Steele High School.
In hallways and classrooms, the “guts” of the school have been laid bare as Bay Mechanical contractors, perched atop ladders, install ductwork.
The work began the first day of summer vacation and is expected to wrap up the first week of August. When complete, every classroom will have cool air.
That’s especially important in the second floor math wing, where principal Michael May said temperatures can be especially brutal.
“There are some days I’ve been up there and it’s been 100 (degrees),” he said Friday. “And not just from the hot weather but from all the bodies. You get 20, 25, 30 kids in there and it’s unbearable.”
Directly below, first floor government, social studies, consumer sciences, and health classrooms have experienced their fair share of discomfort, May said — especially those with east-facing windows that heat up in the morning sun.
The south gymnasium has also been a hot spot. It’s a closed-off hard hat area right now as workers retrofit it.
At the rear of the high school, a huge “chiller” has been installed on a new concrete pad that takes up what used to be four parking spaces. More cooling machinery will go on the roof near the gym.
“It’s quite a project but they’re confident they’ll be completed by school’s start,” said district building and grounds supervisor Chuck Grimmett.
“The real test, the real balancing, will be when we get heat loads,” he said. “When we get students back in, (workers) will be back in and out for a couple of weeks balancing different areas.”
That means students might spend some days at the beginning of the school year shivering and others sweating while the bugs are worked out.
The Steele project comes after more than a year of engineering by Clark & Post Architects, and it’s funded by state money tied to the construction of the new Powers Elementary School on South Lake Street.
Development of that site is moving right along. Grimmett said gas and sewer lines have been laid and when electric is complete the footers can be poured.
Within a month, you should see steel sticking out of the ground.
Next door, the conversion of the Amherst Junior High School library to a creative learning center is ahead of schedule.
Walls are already cut and trussed, studding is going in, and Grimmett hopes work will be completed with carpet installed by Aug. 1, when furniture will be delivered and waiting in the hallways.
When complete, the space will look and feel much like its counterpart at Steele, where books were removed to make well for collaborative learning spaces and digital tools.
The renovation project’s cost is in the neighborhood of $350,000 with $120,000 provided via the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation.
Summer remodeling work is also underway at Nord Middle School on Lincoln Street in the form of a new roof.
Inside, the gym and lockers have been painted, floors are being stripped and waxed, and a new cooler and freezer have been installed.
The only building that isn’t getting big-dollar TLC this summer is the current Powers Elementary on Washington Avenue.
While typical summer cleaning and maintenance is being done, educators are preparing to permanently say goodbye to the building — that’s because it’s scheduled for demolition next summer as the new Powers opens.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.