Renovation projects underway in Knox Schools

The sounds of machinery and demolition are replacing what were once school children and teachers in three Knox County elementary schools. 

Renovation projects are underway at G.R. Hampton, Lay, and Lynn Camp Elementary with the goal of  improving air quality and lowering utility costs once school resumes in August.  The projects are part of the district’s performance contracting with Trane which will provide for new geothermal heating and cooling units at all three schools.

“We are looking forward to having all three systems up and running before school starts back in August,” said Kim Merida, assistant superintendent.   Merida and other district leaders have been closely monitoring the renovation progress to ensure that there will be no delays in having it complete before school resumes on August 14.

“In a lot of  ways this is like building a new facility”, Merida said following a walkthrough at Lay Elementary on Monday.   He stated that a minor inconvenience with completing a project of this size is the amount of cleanup that will follow.

“The ceiling in each of the buildings had to be removed in order to remove old ductwork and install the new geothermal infrastructure,” said Merida.  “Our classroom teachers have basically emptied their rooms into the gymnasium in order for crews to have enough space to work in their rooms without damaging anything used for instruction.”

Once complete each classroom will be equipped with new heating and cooling units that are more efficient in controlling the room temperature and are more economically affordable.   The savings from the new system, based on the costs to operate the old system, will be used to offset the cost of installation of the geothermal system according to the performance contract.

Savings from heating and cooling is not the only positive financial component of the renovation projects.   Scrap metal from the old system and ceiling is being collected at each site by Lewis Recycling which will haul it away and pay the district the current rate for metal. Those funds will be returned to each school to use towards student instruction next school year.

The completion of the geothermal project will allow the school district to move towards energy star certification.   “Our goal is to have as many schools as possible recognized as energy star schools,” said Merida.    Statistics show that top performing energy star schools cost forty cents per square foot less to operate than the average performers. 

New heating and cooling is only one of many renovation projects taking place this summer.   Construction at G.R. Hampton will include a new kitchen, roof, doors, windows, an administrative office area that will increase building security, a sprinkler system, and making the building handicapped accessible.  New windows are slated to be complete at Lay Elementary in the next few weeks.   At the May 28th meeting, Board members voted to move forward with a wastewaster treatment plant at Dewitt Elementary with construction taking place this summer.

“We have a lot of projects taking place right now,” said Merida, “with the goal of creating a more welcoming learning environment for our students.”

Additional updates on the renovation progress will be posted on the KCPS website throughout the summer.    Additional photos are available in the KCPS Photo Gallery.