CHS building renovations on track

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Social distancing and health protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) aren’t the only changes being made at Crawfordsville schools this year.

Updated heating and cooling systems, meal deliveries and the need for substitute teachers and bus drivers highlighted the assistant superintendent’s report during a public meeting Thursday.

Dr. Rex Ryker, who serves as assistant superintendent and building liaison for Crawfordsville Schools, updated board members of recent COVID-19-related adjustments and the current needs of the district.

Substitute teachers and bus drivers

Though the majority of district employees have returned for the 2020-21 school year, 15 resignations were approved during Thursday’s meeting. They included teachers, aides and specialists, with most citing COVID-19 as a reason not to return.

The absence of certified personnel has forced administrators to advertise for several positions, many of which have been filled.

But the need for substitute teachers and bus drivers is still felt.

“Something new we’re going to do with substitute bus drivers — if somebody comes to us and already has their CDL and they work with us for six pay periods, we will give them a $250 bonus, which is basically a portion of what it would cost us to train somebody,” Ryker said. “If you know anyone that’s looking for either of those, please have them call me.”

Wages for full-time bus drivers start at $20 an hour, he said.

Those interested in becoming a substitute teacher or bus driver, whether part-time or full-time, may contact the district at 765-362-2342.

Transportation and meal deliveries

Upward of 100 families opted for remote learning this year, and students attending in person do so on an every-other-day basis.

With this in mind, administrators said they are keeping the meal delivery service as a top priority.

“We are delivering meals to our hybrid kids and our distance learners, so after the bus drivers complete their morning routes, they pick up meals and we begin that delivery process,” Ryker said. “They have been working nonstop since March. Great kudos to them.”

Heating and cooling

Most of the buildings have been fitted with updated heating and cooling systems in the past few years, with each using air filters rated at 10 or above on the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating system.

A MERV rating of 10 is what “general hospital-type settings” use, but filters with a MERV rating of 13 have been installed in each building in response to the pandemic.

“It used to be the gold standard for a school to have a MERV rating of 10. Now, with COVID-19, the gold standard is to get to 13, which is your basic surgery room area,” Ryker said. “We’re putting MERV-13s in all our buildings except for one — Hose’s system is older and we will get that to a 10 where before it was lower. It takes a custom-made filter.”

Asked by board member Susan Albricht if elementary school windows can be opened during the day, Ryker said it is unnecessary thanks to the updated systems.

“All of our buildings will hit complete refreshed air 6-10 times an hour, so we’re at or under 10 minutes for a complete refresh,” he said. “That goes with why we don’t have to open the windows.”

Water bottle filling stations

In lieu of traditional water fountains, which were deemed unsafe in public schools by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Indiana Department of Education, schools have installed sanitary, filtered water bottle filling stations for student to use.

Crawfordsville Schools supplies students with bottles, though they may bring them from home as well.

“We have put in water fountains in all the buildings where they have the water jug filler, so that’s coming along,” Ryker said. “The high school has them everywhere.”

High school renovations

Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the high school renovation project are wrapping up, Ryker said, allowing crews to move on to the planning process for Phase 4, which is designated for staff development and restrooms.

Renovations began in December 2019 and were estimated to be complete by April 2021. But because schools closed in March, resulting in a largely abandoned campus for four months, plans are ahead of schedule.

“Phase 3 — which was not supposed to start until August — most of it is done,” Ryker said. “It’s materials for phases 1 and 2 that have not come in, so we’re still missing some counter tops, some locks and locker tags. Those types of things are coming along that were holding us up.”

The new front office on the first floor of the south wing of the classroom section is also nearly complete, though temperatures in the office are slightly above normal as heating and cooling systems continue to be installed.

“We had a new air unit over the new office that is not fully functional. Hopefully that will be nice and cool in there on Monday,” he said Thursday. “Some people have already kind of moved in — I guess it’s only (Athletic Director Bryce Barton). Others are ready, and rightfully so.”

Speed bumps, drop offs and tree replacements

Board member Kathy Brown said she and others have witnessed drivers “going pretty fast” by the ball diamonds and tennis courts, saying speed bumps could help curb the problem.

Ryker said he and Principal Greg Hunt will discuss the matter and come up with potential solutions with the area freshly paved.

Other areas of the parking lot have also been repaved and repainted, such as the three and admittedly confusing drop off lanes.

“We have the buses dropping (off) up front right now, (but) that system was kind of designed for them to drop in back and keep things a little more consistent,” Ryker said. “We’re working through that.”

Lastly, several trees installed by renovation crews over the summer have been reported as dead or dying.

“It’s in the specifications that they were responsible for maintenance for them,” Ryker said. “They will probably be replacing seven of the nine they put in. They left them out in the parking lot for three days in July when there was no rain or water. Vern Rager, after they were planted, was going and putting water on them after he realized (crews) were not.”

However, the trees could not be saved.

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