Plenty of holes in school’s project plan
Washington project starts with playground drilling at spring break

       While students are on spring break between March 24 and April 1, the first phase of Washington Elementary's $1.674 million capital-upgrade project will get started.
       Crews from Can American Drilling will maneuver their rigs onto the west side of the school's playground and begin boring the first of 40 holes, each 400 feet deep, for the new geothermal heating/ cooling system.
       Fenced off from the other two-thirds of the playground, the drilling will continue through the rest of the school year at Washington, 924 W. Pikes Peak Ave., explained Principal Terry Martinez this week. He added that the drilling noise is not so great as to disrupt classrooms.
       Actual construction, which will feature the geo-thermal installation as well as a major redo of the school's east wing, will begin right after the school year ends. For Washington, that will be May 4, which is earlier than all other Westside schools (except Bristol, which has a major project of its own).
       The contractor will be Torix Construction. The goal is to have the work done by Aug. 3, which hopefully will cover any unforeseen delays, considering that the first day of school is not until Aug. 16, District 11 project manager K.C. Keen said.
       The district has determined that the geothermal system, while more expensive at the outset, “will pay for itself” within four years through energy savings, according to Keen. The closed-loop pipe arrangement transfers the constant 54-degree temperatures below the earth's surface into a building, then adjusts it with electrically- driven compressors and heat exchangers.
       A side benefit will result from the removal of the school's boiler - affectionately nicknamed Mary Ann (from the book “Thomas the Steam Shovel”). About two-thirds of the old boiler room will be converted into a small classroom as part of the project, Martinez said.
       Another big geothermal plus, as Martinez sees it, will be the ability of teachers to adjust the thermostats in their own classrooms. The way it has been, there was only one thermostat for the whole school, and this often meant classrooms in the sun getting too hot and those in the shade too cold.
       Although newer than the west wing, the east wing, built in the '70s, needs a makeover because its “open-classroom” style has not only become out-moded, it is considered a fire hazard under modern standards. Along with hard walls, the wing will get new carpet, paint, lights and ceilings, plus sinks in several classrooms, Martinez said.
       Other than the geothermal-related piping changes, the west wing will be virtually untouched except for some window replacements, he said.
       The school's oldest building - a cottage that was originally at Buena Vista in the early 1900s - will also be improved. It currently has two classrooms and a special reading program. To control noise levels, the ceiling will be dropped, and the current partial partitions between classrooms will be made floor-to-ceiling.
       Although the financial numbers are set, there is hope that some cost savings will be found for extras such as more windows in the mostly windowless east wing, Martinez said.

Westside Pioneer article