Central Square Intermediate School saving taxpayers millions

CAPITAL PROJECT/WINTER 2024 NEWSLETTER - includes this story and a building-by-building look at plans and current progress.

A mountain of a task for O&M, conquered

The once-vacant Central Square Intermediate School has proven itself to be a critical building for Central Square School District, saving taxpayers millions as it has been utilized as a space for students to learn while 2022 capital project improvements continue.

Hastings-Mallory Elementary School is spending the entirety of the 2023-24 school year at CSI, and A.A. Cole Elementary will do the same in 2024-25 while construction teams gut and renovate everything from classrooms, bathrooms, vents, parking lots and more.

The logistics of these plans have been in the works for years, with CSSD Operations and Maintenance Department team members working extra hard to prepare the space to operate an entire elementary school.

“I am truly amazed at the amount and quality of work that was completed by my staff,” said Director of Facilities Paul Brissette. “Our Operations and Maintenance Department has the best team of clerical employees, custodians, maintenance workers, messenger custodians and grounds workers — there is nothing that they cannot accomplish.”

CSI saves CSSD taxpayers millions

Without CSI, Superintendent Thomas J. Colabufo said the only other options would be to hire companies that could work a third shift to clean the building in time for student use each day or lease a space from another district or organization.

Brissette said Turner Construction, one of the teams working on the capital project, estimated a $500,000 per year minimum for an alternate space that did not require alterations, and there were none available meaning the expense would have been far greater.

Both Colabufo and Brissette noted that construction and site teams, inundated with a logjam of project requests for bid and facing similar staffing issues being seen nationwide, are finding it tougher to bid on projects requiring a second shift of workers. Second shift work also typically costs about 15 percent more for labor, Brissette added.”

“Not having space would have dragged the project out for possibly two more years,” Brissette said.

On top of cost concerns, the logistics for buses to get students to the new location and all the extra time needed could have potentially taken away from the instructional day.

As other districts in the area sell buildings and old district office spaces, keeping CSI and investing time and resources into it has made all the difference, said Colabufo.

“We really could not have done it without CSI,” said Colabufo. “We would have spent millions more and bused students out of the district to whichever district might still have an empty space for us, and logistically that’s a nightmare.”

Preparing for a whole school

The school was last used in 2019-20 when grades four and five from Millard Hawk Elementary were housed there during the previous capital project. But preparing for an entire school was a different ballgame.

Preparation of CSI for this year began during COVID after a building condition survey found $130 million in needed work across the schools, some of it to bring areas up to code. Knowing students would likely need to occupy CSI again, Brissette had two staff members regularly painting and working to prepare the building.

Then, in 2022 when voters overwhelmingly approved a proposed capital project and plans were put in motion, the team shifted into high gear to get things moved and ready for staff and student needs.

Brissette said his team rose to the occasion, and this past summer, they painted and cleaned, waxed floors, set up items like ClearTouch panels and bulletin boards, and set up rooms to teacher specifications all within three short weeks.

“CSI looked amazing for the start of school,” he added, while noting that all the hard work and success could not have been achieved without help from administrators, the business office, student services, technology, transportation and food services.

School officials and administrators report the year so far has gone well for Hastings-Mallory Elementary at CSI.

“Students, parents and staff — they seem to love CSI. It’s a very nice, large building that’s very bright with a courtyard in the middle of it,” said Colabufo. “It’s a great building. Nobody likes to have change, but it’s very important that the CSSD made these changes.”

Construction updates, A.A. Cole’s turn is next

Work will continue throughout the spring and summer at Hastings-Mallory Elementary, where students will move back in September 2024. HME’s upgrades have included new asphalt and drainage, two new basketball courts, an updated septic system, bathroom remodels and more.

While working on the project, the district wanted to add extra one-on-one spaces on the second floor of HME but the work was not part of the capital project plan, Brissette said. To help offset the cost, all painting was removed from the project team’s docket and will instead be done by the CSSD Operations and Maintenance Team – allowing the five rooms to move forward.

The summer will be another busy one for the district as they move all the elements back to Hastings-Mallory Elementary, and simultaneously transition all of A.A. Cole Elementary to CSI while it gets a makeover like HME did.

Work at A.A. Cole includes corridor reconstruction, reparation of concrete deck panels, HVAC and plumbing upgrades and replacing the gym divider wall with a divider curtain in addition to other planned items.

There will be a parent meeting at A.A. Cole Elementary School at 6 p.m. Feb. 29 to outline the plan for the community and answer questions and concerns.

“When June comes and the students go home for the summer, we will spring into action,” said Brissette. “We will start moving ClearTouch panels, boards and the contents of two buildings to prepare for the 2024-25 school year. A.A. Cole educational spaces will need to be totally emptied. The contractors will want to start as soon as possible so we will prioritize getting those spaces cleared out.”

It may seem like quite the undertaking, but Colabufo said he’s sure they are the right team for the job — calling Brissette and his staff “simply outstanding” and a group that collaborates well together.

“Not only are they cleaning all of the buildings and their normal workload but now they’re doing that during major capital project work,” said Colabufo. “That’s a massive undertaking on their part and they are amazing. They are making a difference and impacting the futures of our students and district alike.”

Cafeteria HME at CSI

Hastings-Mallory Elementary students smile for a photo while waiting their turn in line at Central Square Intermediate School, their temporary home for the school year during capital project improvements.