Holmes to get $3.1 million in upgrades next summer

       Holmes Middle School is looking ahead to the summer of 2007, when more than $3 million in building upgrades are scheduled.
       The workload, including replacement of existing heating and cooling operations with a geothermal system, is sizeable enough that Principal Brenda LeBrasse has been meeting with School District 11 officials on innovative ways to get the work done by the start of the 2007-08 school year next August.
       As a result, plans call for classes ending five school days early (see article above) and starting to bring contractor crews into the school several weeks before that.
       Technically speaking, such work has already started. A geo-thermal test hole was bored into Holmes' northeast field about two weeks ago. The results will be analyzed to determine the size and location of the holes in the field that will ultimately be needed to handle a contained network of pipes several hundred feet below the ground. The movement of liquid through these pipes will be key to the school's new system, which will mean a lower energy bill than the two-boiler set-up, according to district officials. The test hole provides information about the “thermal condition of the soil,” to help the district “decide how many holes we need and how deep,” according to District 11 Facilities Director Mike Maloney. He estimated 75 will be needed in all. When the work is done, they will be covered over, five feet below the surface.
       Currently, the school has “a failing mechanical system,” D-11 project manager Rick LaRose explained at a meeting this week of the school's Building Accountability Advisory Committee (BAAC). By contrast, “the geo-exchange system is highly efficient.”
       LaRose explained that plans call for a building contractor to be hired in January, allowing time to order supplies and organize the project. No contractor will be considered who cannot pledge to be done by the start of the 2007-08 school year, he added.
       Work crews are likely to be at the school during spring break and also possibly to come in on nights and weekends before school lets out. Drilling the additional holes on the field will be part of that. Such advance work is necessary when the project is gauged to last three months, but summer school only lasts two and a half, he said.
       Every effort will be made to minimize school disruptions in the process, LeBrasse said.
       A final design for the project is being prepared, with the goal of completing it “around Christmas break,” LaRose said. It would be presented to the BAAC at that time.
       He offered to be as helpful as possible to the BAAC, which consists of about two dozen parent and staff volunteers who work with the principal on school issues. “If I don't have the answers, I will find out,” LaRose told the group. “I want this to be a smoothly run project.”
       Funded by the 2005 District 11 bond issue, the Holmes construction work will include removing the two old gas-heated boilers with a geothermal circulating pump that requires only electricity and replacing the old heat-delivery system with a new one. “That's one of the reasons we need to start earlier,” LaRose said.
       LeBrasse was intrigued by the space potential with the geothermal pump, because it will only take up about a quarter of the space of the boilers in the 24-by-20-foot boiler room, according to her building manager, Lee Trujillo. It is not known what future uses might be allowed in that room, but space is so tight now for the school's roughly 700 students that the stage in the gym/cafeteria is being used for a classroom.
       Other Holmes upgrades next summer will involve electrical systems, a library alarm, carpet, chalkboards, lockers, windows and asphalt. The overall pricetag from the bond issue was $3,175,000.
       Holmes is one of five schools in the district - the Westside's Washington Elementary is another - that will be getting geothermal heating/cooling systems. LaRose said The anticipated effect is a constant temperature in the low 70s degrees in any season.
       The system will be controlled by District 11, although teachers can adjust heat/cool levels in individual classrooms for certain periods of time, LaRose said.

Westside Pioneer article