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Lots of safety issues behind bid to renovate Alton Central School

To the editor,
The SAU #72 Buildings and Grounds Committee is sharing information on four topic points, beginning with safety, to help the Alton community understand the serious need and cost for a repair and renovation of the Alton Central School facility located at 41 School Street. On March 12, 2013, voters of the Alton School District will have the opportunity to vote on a Special Warrant Article – Article II – to renovate, reconstruct, repair and construct an addition to the Alton Central School building. The bond seeks to raise and appropriate an approximate $17.7 million and withdraw monies set aside in multiple Capital Reserve Funds as payment towards the project. This proposal was developed over a 2 1/2 year period by community volunteers and elected and appointed school officials as part of a design-bid-build process, which is recommended by the N.H. Department of Education (www.education.nh.gov/program/school_approval/ccdm.htm). This particular topic point on safety will explain how Article II will address critical, on-going safety issues and concerns at the Alton Central School campus.
The Alton Central School campus currently consists of one main building, four modular classroom buildings, a bus loop at front, two parking lots, an elementary playground, and a softball and soccer field on the backside of the school. The original school building was constructed in 1953 and has received four additions (1958, 1965, 1972, and 1988) to keep up with growing student population. The four modular classroom buildings have far exceeded their "life expectancy." These modular classroom buildings support upwards of seven classrooms plus office space.
Currently 555 students in grades pre-K through 8 attend Alton Central School. The Alton Central School's mission states: "Small enough to create a safe environment that inspires each child to excel." There are numerous critical issues including fire and electrical codes, security, toxic building materials and facility structure concerns. The renovation would address all of these issues, bringing Alton Central School up to current public building code standards.
Here are the key safety issues facing Alton Central School:
There is no fire suppression system in the main building. Students attending Alton Central School range from 3 years to 14 years of age. The lack of a fire suppression system puts students and employees at an unnecessary increased risk if there was ever a fire. Article II will equip the building with an automatic sprinkler.
The expired modular classroom buildings present multiple safety issues. On average, 100 students and 17 staff are in modular classroom buildings each day. There is no fire suppression system in these buildings. There is no plumbing, so bathroom breaks take 40 minutes each day. The longest walk to the main building is approximately 50 meters (150 feet); students are exposed to the weather elements, possible trip/hazard falls and to unprotected areas during their travel to/from the main building. Article II will replace the 1953 wing with a new two-story addition, thereby eliminating the need for and use of the expired modular classroom buildings.
The National Electric Code is the de facto standard set of electrical requirements and is updated and published every three years. As stated previously, additions to the main building date almost 50 years ago. Article II will ensure the main building is current to local and state electric code requirements.
Similarly, the Uniform Plumbing Code was last updated in 2012 and represents the most current approaches in the plumbing field. Alton Central School continues to experience ongoing plumbing problems beyond best maintenance practices involving septic drain lines beneath the 1953 and 1972 additions. Article II will correct under slab waste piping.
ACS lacks a centralized main office and adequate confidential meeting space for parents, guardians, staff and visitors. Additionally, there are several exterior double full glass-doors providing an unnecessary security risk.
There are numerous interior building code infractions as well. Specifically, several interior double doors do not have crash bar door hardware. Building codes require all public buildings have a minimum number of fire and emergency exits with crash bars, which are proven to save lives.
Alton Central School contains asbestos-containing building material. Article II will include the abatement and removal of the asbestos thus preventing asbestos hazards to students and employees.
Because certain sections of the school were built prior to 1978, Alton Central School may contain lead-based paint. The proposed rebuild will be done in accordance with the federal lead renovation, repair and painting rule.
Significant portions of the roof are at or near its life span and leaks are becoming more prevalent. The district has spent $28,049.50 since 2008 to remove snow from the aging structure as required by an engineer's safety inspection. That same engineer's report (2008) suggested the undersized rafters be replaced within 2 to 3 years. This past weekend's snow storm will incur more snow shoveling costs, five years after the engineer's recommendation. Article II will provide a new roof as part of the two-story addition and replace the remaining 35,000 square feet of roof.
The aging ACS gymnasium has multiple issues. Player safety is a top concern because the gymnasium is not regulation size. The Alton Fire Department has concerns about a truss roof over the original roof of the gym absent of a fire suppression system. An exterior wall crack from floor to ceiling has worsened to the point where outdoor light is visible from inside the gym.
As a reminder, 100 percent of the new main building proposed by Article II will be used upon completion. Considering the completion of the Prospect Mountain High School bond, the highest probable net cost increase for property owners of the Alton School District is $.34 per $1,000 of building and land value. Voting on warrant articles for the School District shall be conducted by official ballot to be held on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at Prospect Mountain High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.. If you have any questions regarding the proposed rebuild project, please feel free to contact Superintendent Bill Lander, SAU #72 at 875-7980.
SAU #72 Building & Grounds Committee

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