Northampton School Board Gets Laundry List of Summer Repairs

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By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton schools Director of Operations Chris Truckner gave the school board a laundry list of building and equipment repairs and upgrades needed at Occohannock and Kiptopeke elementary schools at the April 25 school board meeting.

His decision to make the repairs was based on “information that we’re learning through all the issues at the high school and trying not to repeat history,” Truckner said.

Northampton High School was built 65 years ago, with an addition built more than 40 years ago. One structural engineering firm, Speight, Marshall, and Francis, of Virginia Beach, Va., has reported the school is deteriorating rapidly and the original structure is in poor condition.

A second firm, Waller, Todd, and Sadler, also of Virginia Beach, is conducting a full investigation of the building issues. The investigation is expected to be complete in late May, with a final report to follow in early June. The report will help the school board and county supervisors decide whether to repair or reconstruct all or part of the building.

At the 26-year-old elementary schools, the boiler systems that heat the buildings share what Truckner called a “design flaw” created by “not knowing what the future held.” The boiler systems were “over-engineered” and now need major work for them to function properly.

The boilers have already been replaced twice, Truckner added.

The elementary schools are ready for replacement of all window and door caulking and seals, which have dry rotted with age. In the brick exterior walls, the metal expansion joints will also be re-caulked.

Areas of the school grounds with poor stormwater drainage will be regraded, allowing water to flow away from the buildings.

The main water lines to the HVAC systems in the elementary schools have rotted “from the inside out” and need replacing, Truckner said. In some areas, improperly insulated pipes have completely rusted through.

Many of the water lines were replaced over the winter after pipes in the ceiling burst and flooded classrooms.

The elementary schools’ outdated communication systems need to be rewired due to technological advances, Truckner added. Modern computers and TVs require connection with ethernet cables, not phone lines or coaxial cables, he said.

From a safety and security perspective, “In the case of an emergency, being able to notify people quickly is almost as important as having locks on the doors,” Chief Financial Officer Brook Thomas said.

Most of the projects are planned for the summer, but the communication system upgrades might be delayed, Truckner said. It’s a busy time of year for contractors, and most aren’t willing to travel across the Chesapeake Bay or from Salisbury, Md. for work without inflating their prices.

The Occohannock Elementary playground needs a new slide because replacement parts are no longer available for the old one. The slide will cost $8,000 to $10,000. Multi-functional pieces of playground equipment can cost between $35,000 and $70,000, Truckner said.

At the high school, the boys locker room and a storage room will get new ceilings this summer.

An unstable wall at the athletic field house will be rebuilt, and a section of the bleachers will be repaired.

The structural investigation of Northampton High School continues, including a destructive phase. The investigative team is drilling into the terrazzo floors and removing core-shaped sections to test the soil underneath for moisture that may be causing the building to settle.

The terrazzo will be refitted and sealed back in place following the soil test, as long as it doesn’t break apart when removed, Truckner assured school board members.

The investigative team will also remove a section of bricks from an exterior wall to examine and take photos inside; then the bricks will be replaced. Truckner is “not a big fan” of the process, “but it’s necessary,” he said.