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In-House Renovations Key for Harrison Schools

District administrators say a skilled maintenance staff has allowed for key improvements within Harrison's schools at a fraction of the price.

Not long after the final bell rings at the end of the school year, parts of Harrison's school buildings take on the look of an active construction zone.

Although these aren't contracted construction projects, the renovations that take place within the schools every summer are substantial, administrators say. But they wouldn't be possible without the work of a talented maintenance staff that allows for almost all of the summer renovations to be done in-house.

"Most districts would put this work out to bid, but we have a talented staff and don't have to," said Robert Salierno, Harrison assistant superintendent for business.

This summer alone, maintenance workers have rebuilt the library at to include a new media center and opened the floor plan to allow for more space, renovated three high school science labs and installed new floors and ceilings in dozens of the district's classrooms.

Between and , 15 science labs have received a facelift over the last three summers.

The district slowly began to place more emphasis on the maintenance department in 2007, said Harrison Schools Superintendent Louis Wool. That year, Harrison voted down a bond referendum that would have paid for improvements to several district buildings. Shortly after that, administrators experimented with doing some smaller improvements using in-house staff.

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The experiment paid off, according to Salierno, who said the district monitored costs comparing whether a project was sent to an outside company or done by maintenance workers. Over time, the projects became more widespread after it became clear the district could save money by assigning its own workers during the summer.

"It really paid off dividends for us," said Salierno, who used the Harrison Avenue School's library project from a previous year as an example. Salierno said that project cost about $300,000 to complete, but would have cost about $500,000 if given to a third party. Other projects have revealed savings between 20 and 60 percent, Salierno said.

With a talented staff in place, the district now has more control over how and when each summer renovation is completed. Wool said the district now has a department with the skills to take on larger projects than surrounding school districts, allowing for more substantial improvements during the summer at a fraction of the cost.

"It's proven to be very cost effective," he said.

This year's projects also include a new fitness center at the high school. Maintenance crews are currently finishing the new facility in place of the old wrestling room. This year the wrestling program will move to the middle school and a new facility with treadmills, Stairmasters and other equipment will be open to students at Harrison High School throughout the day and evening.

Plans are already in the works for next summer, when Wool said the district hopes to add some new features to the cafeteria, opening that space for students who are at the school during the evenings.

"It's part of the idea of making the high school more enticing for kids to be here during off hours," Wool said.

While the larger projects will be the first to be noticed when students return this fall, Wool said the electrical work and technical improvements done during the summer are equally important. With skilled electricians and masons on-staff this work can also be done without hiring outside help.

"You have to have the right group," Salierno said, praising the efforts of the district's summer maintenance staff for a final time.

Dr John August 24, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Although I am happy to see the HCSD saving money the thing that is disturbing is why didn’t the school board and Mr. Wool look into making these renovations before they were ready to put a 150 million dollar band on the back of this community! Thank God this was voted down but it kind of makes me think where else is this school board and Mr. Wool wasting our money? Remember this next time the budget and school board members come up for a vote in 2013!

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