While most students and staff were enjoying their summer break, construction crews were busy on numerous projects around Dearborn Public Schools.
Four elementary schools were closed for the entire summer as they entered the final stages of work to add air-conditioning, and another was closed as work started on its air-conditioning project. Several other buildings saw projects to improve energy efficiency, including the start of a district-wide initiative to switch to LED lighting.
DuVall, Oakman, Snow and Whitmore Bolles elementary schools saw their air-conditioning projects mostly finished this summer after more than a year of work. Some final parts were delayed, but air conditioning should be working in those buildings by spring 2024. Those schools were under construction for the entire 2022-23 school year with a few classrooms at a time getting ductwork installed to be connected to the new ventilation and cooling equipment that was being installed this summer. Installing ducts means emptying the classroom, pulling down the existing ceiling, and installing mechanical ductwork and any other needed equipment. During construction, students and teachers assigned to those rooms were shifted to other parts of the school. This summer saw a push to finish as much of the work as possible. Each of the four buildings had its boilers and ventilation systems replaced and chillers and other cooling equipment installed and connected to the new ducts.
Three other buildings – Howard Elementary, Long Elementary and Nowlin Elementary – have seen construction started on their projects to upgrade mechanical systems and add air conditioning. Nowlin was also closed for the summer, but Howard and Long saw more minor work, mostly installing ductwork in particular classrooms.
Haigh Elementary will also have some classrooms, but not all, air-conditioned as part of an expansion that will add six classrooms to the building. That work is expected to start this fall.
Like most of the district’s schools, all of those buildings getting air-conditioning were built with radiators for heat. This efficient heating system means those buildings do not have the ductwork needed to push cooled (conditioned) air throughout the rooms. Adding air conditioning is expected to cost $4 million to $6 million for each elementary building. The district is using $55 million in federal COVID relief money to fund the air-conditioning project and the expansion at Haigh. The buildings were selected for air-conditioning based on a number of factors, including the vulnerability of the young students and the need for new boilers and other related work at those sites.
In addition to the air-conditioning work, renovations are occurring in several schools through the end of 2024 as part of an energy efficiency bond.
Public schools are allowed to take out smaller bonds to improve energy efficiency if they can show the savings over time could be used to repay the bond. In May, the Board of Education approved an $11 million energy bond to pay for energy efficiency improvements.
The work started this summer with switching all the lighting at Fordson High School to more efficient LED lights. Eventually most of the district’s 36 buildings are slated to be switched to LED lights through the project, which will continue through December of 2024. With school back in session, contractors will continue working after school hours and on days when schools are closed.
A number of other efficiency programs are also included in the project. That list includes updating mechanical controls at Edsel Ford High, testing and replacing steam traps at ten schools, switching several kitchens to lower flow faucets, and better sealing doors, windows and wall-to-roof seams to reduce heat loss in 28 buildings. Find more information about the efficiency project on the efficiency bond webpage.
Outside of the two main construction programs, the district had several other construction projects underway this summer. Some of those items include:
- Partial roof replacements at Edsel Ford High, Stout Middle, Whitmore Bolles Elementary and Woodworth Middle.
- Upgrading cabling and switching across the district as part of a $3.4 million project, with $2.9 million in funding from the Universal Service Fee Funding Grant.
- Replacing the turf at Dearborn High.
- Improving fire alarms at Miller Elementary.
- Replacing the main gym floor at Edsel Ford High.
- Improvements in the Fordson High weight room and converting the Edsel Ford woodshop classroom into a weight room.
- Tennis court repairs at Dearborn High, Edsel Ford High and Fordson High.
- Converting the home ec/cooking classroom at Bryant Middle into a science room.