MARTINSBURG - At 52 years old, Central High School's infrastructure is in the opening stage of a much-needed, if pricey, overhaul - one that administrators say could save Spring Cove School District thousands of dollars in the long term.
The Martinsburg school, which houses more than 500 students in four grades, has decades-old heating, plumbing and water-temperature systems. They've served admirably, Superintendent Robert Vadella said Wednesday, but left unattended, they could throw a wrench into the entire district's operation.
"People say, 'What's plumbing have to do with the classroom?'" Vadella said. "If the plumbing goes out, you're closed. If the heat goes out in winter, you're closed. I don't have a spare building to move all the people if Central closes."
Mirror photo by Mark Leberfinger
An internal upgrade is under way at Central High School as decades-old heating, plumbing and water-temperature systems are being examined.
School board members and administrators have met repeatedly with engineers from Trane Inc., a New Jersey-based building management company, since they agreed in August to hire the business for a $34,000 energy audit.
The audit revealed the school's most pressing infrastructure problems and methods to correct them, administrators said, including refurbished plumbing, room heating and a new hot-water system.
Board members have yet to agree on specific changes, and there's no set time frame for a decision, newly elected board President Jeff Brennecke said Wednesday.
Brennecke and Vadella said they haven't discussed cost limits, either, although the prospect of a multimillion-dollar infrastructure project was cited as a major reason for a June property tax increase.
Administrators will meet with Trane engineers to mold a plan based on price limits, Vadella said.
"There's no question we're going to need to do something there," he said.
A plumbing and energy overhaul could sow benefits beyond better functioning, he noted: Some recommended changes, from low-flow toilets to more efficient heaters, could pay for themselves through utility-bill savings.
In his previous district, Forest City Regional in northeastern Pennsylvania, energy-efficient light fixtures saved administrators enough cash to install air conditioning in some rooms, Vadella said - a move Spring Cove could replicate with enough savings.
Central Principal David Crumrine said he hopes infrastructure improvements can begin in the coming year.
"It's been discussed as long as I've been principal," which is 12 years, he said. "It's getting to the point where it would have to be replaced before it becomes a necessity."
More urgent projects kept Central on the back burner for years, but now it's half-century-old interior is next in line for repair, Crumrine said. The first recommended step, installation of a new water heater, is already under way.
"It's things you don't see but you really need," he said. "It's not glamorous, but it's stuff you need to have."