BACK TO SCHOOL

Students return to schools with upgrades

2011-08-24T16:30:00Z 2011-08-25T00:55:04Z Students return to schools with upgrades

By ROB ROGERS

Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
August 24, 2011 4:30 pm  • 

As students filed into Poly Drive Elementary on Wednesday morning, they walked by a big white sign that read, “Thank You” in big black letters.

It’s a reference to the $12 million in federal bonds that voters approved for the district last year. Of that, $303,696 went to Fisher Construction for all new windows at Poly Drive Elementary.

“Financed by the citizens of Billings,” the sign reads.

Students at several School District 2 schools returned from their summer break Wednesday to schools with new windows, roofs and updated fire alarm systems.

Over the summer, Washington, Bench, Highland and Poly Drive elementary schools had all their windows replaced at a cost of approximately $1.2 million.

Next summer, windows will be replaced at Newman Elementary and Lewis and Clark Middle School.

“It’s been on the list for a long time,” Poly Drive Principal Pam Meier said of the schools windows. “The teachers would mention it every year.”

Poly Drive was built in 1952, with a second — and final — wing added in 1960. Many of the windows were original to the building.

The new ones that went in over the summer are double-paned and tinted. They insulate so well it prompted one teacher to declare she was looking forward to winter.

In years past, teachers had stuffed towels and rags around window edges to keep cold air from getting in.

“Things like this are going to make a huge difference with conserving energy,” said Josh Middleton, SD2 assistant superintendent.

The updates to windows — and the other projects, which include roof replacements and new boilers — could save the district $94,435 a year in energy costs.

But more importantly, the new windows will improve greatly the learning environment at the four schools.

In terms of classroom environment and learning conditions, windows have a surprising impact, Meier said.

“They definitely make a difference,” she said.

Broadwater, Washington, Burlington and Miles Avenue elementary schools had new fire alarm systems installed. The total cost for the four schools was approximately $238,082.

These new fire alarm systems will automatically notify the fire department when they sound and show where in the building the alarm has been tripped.

The bonds were designated specifically for maintenance and construction projects, and the district has plenty. SD2 faces $123 million in deferred maintenance.

Most appealing for the district was the fact that the $12 million in bonds would only cost SD2 $5.5 million because of federal incentives to use the money.

Other bond projects include replacing the 70-year-old boiler at Senior High and replacing the roofs at 10 schools. All projects must be finished by 2013 under the bond agreement.

For Meier, she’s just happy to back at school.

“We’re excited to get back, thrilled to see the kids,” she said. “It’s the only profession where you get to start fresh every year.”

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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