Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 16, 2014

Middle school to get new roof

Auxiliary services director Fred McElwee updated the school board on how the new geothermal heating and cooling system is affecting the middle school’s utility bill.
By DIANE VANCE, Ledger staff writer | Jan 22, 2013

The Fairfield school board agreed Monday for the district to seek bids on a summer roof replacement project over the gym and cafeteria area at Fairfield Middle School and set a public hearing March 18 about the project.

Auxiliary Services Director Fred McElwee said bids would be due March 14.

“The roof sections have been identified as in need of replacement and this has been budgeted in the district’s infrastructure plan,” he said. “The project will be paid for with the S.A.V.E. fund.”

The middle school was the focus of a few discussions at Monday’s regular school board meeting.

McElwee shared data of electrical and gas use in the FMS building for the current school year to date and the past two school years. Beginning with this school year, the building’s air handling system was changed over from boiler heat to geothermal heating and cooling.

“We haven’t gone through a full year cycle with geothermal and we’re still doing a lot of testing and balancing with the system,” said McElwee. “We know already it’s much easier to manage heating the building for special events because we can heat an area — give spot heat — compared to the former system.”

McElwee said the middle school would probably see increased summer use for events, as it will have air conditioning.

Electrical use at FMS has increased because geothermal runs on compressors, totally through use of electricity.

In the five months of this school year, FMS has used 299,000 kilowatts of electricity for a total electrical cost of $28,306.

Last year, before geothermal was installed, FMS used 223,400 kilowatts of electricity in a five-month period at a cost of $22,148; and for the whole 2011-12 school year, 492,200 kilowatts of electricity for an annual electrical cost of $46,735.

In the 2010-11 school year, FMS used 240,200 kilowatts in five months at a cost of $24,772 for electricity; and 514,000 kilowatts for the year at an annual cost of $52,009.

“Alliant changed our [discounted] rate for large customers to a more costly rate because in the previous year we fell below the required kilowatt use per month,” said McElwee.

Alliant re-evaluates electrical usage annually, so the school can be re-evaluated to return the previous large-user rate at the end of June, said McElwee.

Natural gas therms use and costs have decreased this school year. The five months of the current school year shows FMS has used 1,040 therms at a $791 cost compared to 6,632 therms costing $4,617 for five months of 2011-12; and 9,676 therms costing $7,303 for five months in 2010-11.

Jeff Koontz, district head of the maintenance department, shared a PowerPoint about the Woodman Controls installed at FMS to operate the geothermal air handling system.

“The district has historically gone with Johnson Controls,” he said. “Johnson Controls are proprietary, so if something needs repair only Johnson Control electricians could work on the system.

“Woodman Controls is not proprietary and we have a great electrician who understands this system very well,” said Koontz. “It’s internet-based, so I can call up the FMS system on my home computer and check how it’s running.”

He demonstrated checking FMS’s air handling system live and explained that various vents show red for heat, pink for warm, blue for cool and blower fans indicate if operating or still.

Koontz said in the geothermal installation project, FMS had installed 550 new lights; 40,000 feet of new conduit; 240,000 feet of new wiring; 4,500 feet of new piping inside the building; 122,000 feet of piping in the outdoor well field, which pumps 15,000 gallons of water and glycol (anti-freeze); 650 feet of loops and 90 wells in the well field; 105 new heating and cooling units each with its own thermostat; and 253 filters.

“We look at each building every morning, but especially in cold weather,” said Koontz. “At the middle school we can view screens in the building showing room temperatures. We can see the temperature of the water coming in and going out. The engineers say the difference [in outgoing and incoming temperatures] should be about 5 degrees – for both cooling and heating. We can adjust the rate of the pumps to get that 5 degrees.”

Teachers in classrooms are able to control the thermostat.

Koontz said FMS also has indoor carbon dioxide monitors to meter indoor air quality. At a certain rating (as specified by Occupational Safety and Health Administration) an air exchange kicks on to bring fresh air from the outdoors inside.

In other business Monday, the board approved one of three possible district calendars for the 2013-14 school year.

The first day of classes for students will be Aug. 21, with short days, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the first three days, Aug. 21-23. First quarter ends Oct. 23. Fall parent/teacher conferences are scheduled for Nov. 5 and 7. School dismisses for winter break Dec. 20. School resumes Jan. 3, 2014, and second quarter/first semester end Jan. 14. Parent/teacher conferences are scheduled for Feb. 11 and 13. Third quarter ends March 20, students will have no classes March 21, and spring break is March 24-28.

An extra vacation day is built-in, April 18; Easter is April 20. High school graduation is June 1. The end of fourth quarter, second semester and the last day of classes are June 3, 2014.

“This calendar is a little bit different because we’ve built-in a couple of snow days,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff.

“The April 18 vacation day is a day off no matter what, but if we need an extra snow day, it can be counted.” he said. “We agreed to stop fluctuating about using Memorial Day holiday weekend for graduation and standardized graduation as the first Sunday in June.”

Beginning the school year on a Wednesday is well established and liked by students and staff, he said.

Board member Amy Miller said she would like to see the district’s spring break aligned with universities’ spring break time frame.

“And I don’t like starting the first days of school a half-hour earlier [8 a.m.] than normal [8:30 a.m.] because it’s hard enough to get kids up at the end of summer break and get a routine going again,” said Miller. “Can we consider changing the start time and maybe go a half-hour later those short days?”

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