Committee takes tour of newly renovated Jamestown schools
For the older Melrose School youngsters, an outdoor classroom awaits, with tables and benches arranged under the trees.
Those were but two of the many improvements which Lewis Kitts, building and grounds manager, showed during a tour for the School Committee prior to its Aug. 25 meeting. Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lukon and town councilor Bill Murphy also attended.
Kitts left no doubt that the Lawn Avenue and Melrose Avenue school buildings would be ready for the first day of school and sparkling, thanks to efforts from the maintenance crews.
“It’s been a lot of hours, but we’ll be ready,” he told the group.
Kitts has managed to prepare the school buildings despite being short staffed, Lukon said. Some of the regular maintenance workers have been out due to illness, Kitts added.
Among the highlights, Kitts pointed to kitchen wall repairs at the Lawn Avenue School, which was damaged by a backhoe last winter. The wall has been fixed, and the school kitchen also has a new two-burner gas stove with oven and grill. Insurance money paid for the stove, he said.
Maintenance also replaced two carpets in classrooms damaged by a water leak due to frozen pipes last winter. The rug replacement called for extra weekend hours and an unexpected asbestos abatement program, but the problem was corrected per state and federal regulations, Kitts said. The air has also been tested and the new rugs installed, he said.
Also, a new exterior door for the gym allows the teachers to enter and exit from the playing fields.
Outdoor and indoor lighting systems have also been upgraded at the Lawn Avenue School. The building front exterior and the gym exterior are now illuminated by LED lighting, which uses fewer watts and will help save energy. In addition, all the classrooms are fitted with sensors, so the lights automatically turn off when the room is empty.
Many of the improvements were part of the capital improvement plan and have been a couple of years in the making. For instance, ceiling installation has been ongoing. Kitts started replacing doors at the Lawn Avenue School two years ago, he said.
As of this year, all the doors are new or painted green, he said. Kitts also upgraded security with three additional magnetic locks on the exterior doors.
The Lawn Avenue School measures 55,000-square feet and was built around 1955, he said.
“This building’s been renovated as many times as Joan Rivers has had face-lifts,” he joked.
The Melrose Avenue School opened in 1991 and measures 70,000-square feet, Kitts said. The parking lot lighting now features LEDs, replacing the older metal halide lights.
Kitts said the LED lighting not only saved energy but also afforded far superior light.
“I call it bright, bright moonlight,” he said.
Kitts said the new illumination was “retrofitted” to existing lamp poles and wiring. The lighting had been swapped out earlier, although some of the School Committee members would be seeing it for the first time. Construction on the new preschool outdoor learning area started two weeks ago, he said, with help from the town. Public Works crews pulled out overgrowth and brush at the front corner of the building, roughly outside the preschool classroom. The room is small, so the extra outdoor room should help, he said.
“[The space] is tight, but they do a lot of good things in here,” he said.
Kitts also said the maintenance workers made an effort to spruce up the physical and occupational therapy room. Preventative maintenance had been difficult to schedule there because the room is almost constantly in use, he said. Over the summer, the crew worked on the floor to bring up the shine, he said.
Kitts has been trying a new floor finish, which he started in the teacher’s room, and expects to install in other areas. The finish is like polyurethane and looks like new after buffing.
The School Committee made a special stop at the library resource room where the books are arranged in bins according to reading level.
“We get a lot out of the buildings,” he said.
School Committee member B.J. Whitehouse said the outdoor classroom “gets my vote.”
“The buildings look great,” he added.
Whitehouse and other committee members also remarked about the savings from LED lighting outside Lawn Avenue School, which dropped from about 1,700 watts to 250.
School Committee member Sav Rebecchi said he was impressed that Kitts had been able to build the outdoor classroom and the preschool learning area so quickly. Rebecchi had thought the projects were some five years off when Kitts originally broached the ideas.
“I didn’t expect to see it so soon,” he said.