Some of the Windber Area School District’s building needs are hard to miss.
There are small sections of leaking roof, a crumbling high school retaining wall and aging, inefficient windows, Superintendent Rick Huffman said.
But there’s also a growing list of needs that aren’t nearly as easy to spot – a reason the district engaged a Harrisburg firm to conduct a districtwide facilities evaluation this past fall.
“All of a sudden, you sit down with a laptop and you notice things aren’t working nearly as fast as they were a few years ago,” Huffman said. “Things like the infrastructure for our wireless system and building security, those are things we have to think about for the years ahead.”
McKissick Associates, a Harrisburg firm that specializes in school design and architecture, has been working since October on a list of needs at Windber’s schools.
They’ll present findings to board members during their Jan. 8 meeting, a first step toward forming a game plan to address top issues, Huffman said.
“The next step will be to have them work with our H.F. Lenz engineers to come up with options to address some of these concerns,” he said.
Huffman said there are a few glaring needs he expects will be addressed early, such as a crumbling retaining wall and high school roof issues. But ultimately it will be up to the school board to develop a priority list, he said.
“To me, safety is No. 1. We’re living in changing times, and when you look at some of the events that have occurred at schools nationwide ... you learn from them,” he said, noting Windber’s schools were not built with security in mind decades ago.
Among other areas school officials will likely discuss:
- Technology: “We need to make sure we have the technology in place to support today’s technology needs,” Huffman said, citing routers as one of several components that will need upgrades. He said it has been 15 years since the current network was installed, although it has seen minor upgrades.
- Heat pumps: Some of the district’s pumps for its heating systems are now 30 years old.
- Windows and lighting: The district is eyeing changes to increase efficiency in the school.
“We’re going to be making investments on behalf of the taxpayer, so we want to make sure we do it efficiently,” Huffman said, noting LED lighting and other new technology could cut energy costs and result in long-term savings.
Huffman said the board likely will take some time to establish priorities but could vote on a plan later this year that would have some priority work getting underway in the 2014-2015 school year.
David Hurst covers Windber for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.