By Catharin Shepard
Rockfish Hoke and Sandy Grove Elementary schools both have their new chiller systems in place and working, and East and West Hoke Middle schools each have new chillers going in to keep students and staff cool when class starts next month, school officials reported.
After months of issues with the chillers at the two elementary schools and coming close to the end of the lifespan of the chillers at the middle schools, the county schools’ energy performance contracting work is now underway and replacing not only the chillers that serve as air conditioning but also everything from water fountains to ceiling lights.
Senior project manager Mike Vrchota updated school leaders Tuesday morning on how the performance contracting work is going. “We’re approximately 42 percent complete with the energy savings agreement and project right now,” he said.
The two middle schools each have two chillers. Workers have replaced one of the old chillers at each school and are preparing to replace the last two, Vrchota said.
“We’re about 80 percent complete with that as far as the install of the chiller. Tomorrow we begin check tests and startup with the Trane U.S.A. technician out at West Hoke, and then East Hoke the following day. I don’t anticipate any problems with either chiller; the mechanical contractor has done a very good job and it’s been supervised well,” he said.
Atlantic Coastal Supply, a local company, is working to replace the water fountains and work on that part of the project is nearly done, the project manager reported. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls are going in that will allow the schools to more closely monitor and control interior conditions, and work is also ongoing to improve the “building envelope” that keeps the schools cool in spring and fall and warm in winter.
“What we call the weatherization, the sashes and door bottoms which really keep this HVAC we’re providing now into a confined area so we’re not blowing it out the doors, and that’s working very well. We’re 100 percent complete on that,” Vrchota said.
Also, Hoke County will be the first school system in the state, and possibly in the nation, to have all of its school buildings fitted with LED lighting, according to Vrchota.
Once the $6 million project is complete, the school system will save a predicted $40,000 or more a month on its utility bills. That will allow the system to pay back the cost of the work and new equipment over the 15-year term of the contract, Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson said.
Additionally, the school system is using capital outlay money to pay for work at Upchurch Elementary. The system did not receive as much money as officials hoped for to pay for improving the school buildings, school facilities director Charles Tapp said.
“We had to kind of pick and choose and prioritize,” he said.
The work at Upchurch Elementary is underway to improve the appearance and function of the school building. The classrooms are getting new sheetrock, new lighting, new brick is being laid out, and the school recently got a new roof.
“We’re about halfway through with the classrooms, and the brickwork is about 25 percent,” Tapp said.
Work is also ongoing at the high school to move the EC classes to the 400 block of the Gibson side of campus, and to renovate one of the bathrooms for the use of EC students and to make it more easily accessible.