Work is mostly finished on a two and half million dollar renovation project at Petersburg’s Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. Petersburg’s school board discussed that work and other capital project needs at a meeting this week.

Architect Tony Yorba of the Juneau firm Jensen Yorba Lott told the board that the elementary school is a “really great” facility, with walls that have been upgraded from insulation rating of R2 now to R30.

“Tying that in with the roof replacement project that we did a few years ago, you have a building that meets the higher energy standards that are used to measure buildings and stuff today,” said Yorba. “So that part, you’ve gone from zero to 30. That’s really good.”

The project price tag is expected to come in around two and a half million dollars, with a mix of state and federal funding covering that amount. The new walls and windows are meant to lower the cost of heating the over-40-year-old building and school maintenance director Dan Tate has already reported a difference.

Student artwork adorns the new metal siding on the Rae C. Stedman elementary school. (KFSK file photo)

Student artwork adorns the new metal siding on the Rae C. Stedman elementary school. (KFSK file photo)

The project also took care of exposed flammable insulation underneath the building that posed a fire danger and removed asbestos panels on the outside of the school, replacing them with steel siding.

Yorba acknowledged there were some challenges with the renovation. “The project went long. I think Erica’s teachers will attest to that and so some people’s patience was tried. I really appreciate Dr. Stroh and others with their patience working with us and trying to resolve some of the reasons it went long. There were some manufacturer issues with the siding and the carpet. There were also some electrical design issues. We’re still kinda sorting that out.”

Board member Jay Lister asked about electrical light switches that had to be replaced. “With the light switches, we had light switches that just didn’t work or?…”

“The design is for, it’s a brand new system with the LED lights working with daylight and this sort of thing.” Yorba replied. “And the switching that we put in at the direction of the manufacturer, it just didn’t work right.”

The solution is new wireless switches to control the classroom lighting. There’s also some additional lighting needed in the library and a new railing needed on the back entrance. Alaska Commercial Contractors of Juneau was the main contractor for the work that started in April. It continued through the summer and is mostly finished, except for resolving those few remaining issues.

In other project news, the district will be seeking bids from companies to overhaul one of its boilers in the middle school building. Maintenance director Tate says the 30-year-old sectional boiler is leaking water and needs to be resealed. “What we need to do is we need to put this out to bid and get this boiler overhauled and resealed,” Tate said.

The board agreed to advertise that work for bids from companies. The district had a different boiler repaired in 2012 and is hoping to get state funding to pay for a portion of both overhaul projects. And as for those prospects, the prior boiler repair work is number one on a new preliminary list of projects that could see major maintenance grant funding through the state Department of Education. Another Petersburg project, a two-point-two million dollar food service renovation, ranks number nine on that list.

However, board president Jean Ellis noticed a lack of projects from the more populous parts of the state. “The other unfortunate thing I noticed looking at this list is there’s almost no projects for Anchorage or Mat-Su. Which means the chances of it begin passed and going very far down are probably not as positive as I’d like it to be because there’s not very many legislators impacted by this.”

Petersburg’s projects ranked highly on the Department of Education’s list last year as well but the state legislature and governor only approved grant funding for a few Alaska school projects in the capital budget. The district will try again in the upcoming session to secure state grant money for the boiler and food service renovations.