With the summer quickly drawing to a close, North Salem school officials are putting the finishing touches on some upgrades at Pequenakonck Elementary School as well as the North Salem Middle/High School.
Students and parents walking into the elementary school come next week will be greeted by a brand new front entrance at PQ, complete with new sidewalks and new front steps. “The previous front entrance was deteriorating and the sidewalks were in pretty bad shape,” said Gary Green, director of school facilities and transportation in the North Salem Central School District. In addition, PQ will have an exterior facelift with a section of new bricks being replaced, and the exterior being power washed. The septic system is also being replaced at PQ. The previous one, which was installed 43 years ago, had exceeded its life span, according to Green. He said while students, teachers and administrators will be able to flush the toilets when they return to school, some work on the system will continue at least until October.
Green said the new septic system is about twice the size in order to accommodate a larger school population from when it was initially installed in the 1970s. He added that the school district expects to get another 40-45 years out of the new system. The kindergarten playground had to be excavated and moved slightly in order to accommodate the the installation of multiple septic tanks with larger septic fields. As part of the installation, the playground was resurfaced. Plus, the basketball court in the kindergarten wing will be replaced and moved slightly closer to the building, away from the fields. Everything is expected to be in place, he says, by the end of September.
The septic system was installed using existing school maintenance personnel. The upgrades are being paid for with a $12.7 million bond that voters approved in 2015. Green says it’s the first of many planned changes using the capital improvement upgrade funding. Other changes will be made in the next three years, he says.
Green estimates about a million dollars of the bond is being used for upgrades this year. In addition to the building upgrades, regular maintenance is being done at PQ ahead of the new school year. Classroom floors have been stripped down and two layers of sealer and four layers of wax applied, as needed using environmentally safe/green products. Plus, classrooms and hallways are being painted as part of the school’s annual maintenance, Green said.
About a dozen Smart Boards are also being installed at PQ and the Middle/High School. According to Green, the software is the same. While they cost more money, they don’t use overhead projectors like the old models and look more like a flat screen TV. Previous smart boards have a lifespan of between 7 and 10 years, Green said.
Some big changes are also coming to North Salem Middle/High School. Namely the front security entrance is getting completely remodeled. The security station currently at the left front entrance is being moved down the hallway to the right, and will be enclosed by a glass vestibule, similar to the one at PQ. Green says that will add a layer of protection. The ceiling and carpet are being replaced as well. Flooring outside the Middle/High School auditorium has been stripped and new carpet is being put in place. That will extend down the hallway past the library.
Students will see a big change at the library as well. The wall across from the librarian’s desk has been knocked down and the room, which has been used as a library classroom and a tech center, opened up. A glass wall will be installed to better allow the librarian to see students in the room. A pair of surrounding beams have also been moved and or/shaved down to enhance the school librarian’s visibility. The room will also house the school’s 3D printer. Officials will also reconfigure conference tables in the room to allow students to work together on projects
The school is also adding more than 200 new Chromebooks. Green says the art room is also undergoing renovations. The existing sink will be replaced with two deeper ones, making cleanup easier, and a backsplash will be installed. The Middle/High School will also be digging a trench and installing a gas line to June Road to enable it to connect to a newly installed NYSEG gas line. The gas line will enable the school district to use either oil or gas for power, depending on the cost savings. A dual fuel system is already in place in the Middle/High School.
School opens on Sept. 6.