While students may take summer holidays to work on either a summer job or a sun tan, facilities staff at Houston’s public schools see it as a short window to do some major building upgrades.
One of the biggest projects in the Bulkley Valley School District this summer is a $148,000 replacement of about a third of the roof at Silverthorne Elementary School.
Secretary Treasurer Steven Richards says that in a typical year, the roofing budget for the entire district runs between $150,000 and $200,000.
“Roofs don’t last forever, and we’ve got a lot of roofs in the district,” he said. “It’s an expensive business.”
Workers are also busy over at Houston Secondary, Richards said, working on a $65,000 to $75,000 project to replace the school’s west wall.
“I think you could feel the wind blowing through that thing,” he said.
Ed Hildebrandt, Operations Supervisor, says the new wall at HSS will feature smaller, more energy-efficient windows and rolling metal shutters for better insulation.
Just as it staggers roof replacement over a ten-year period to avoid the high cost of doing several big jobs at once, Richards said the district replaces old flooring the same way.
About $39,000 will be spent replacing old floors Silverthorne and other elementary schools this summer, said Hildebrandt.
It’s a job that requires workers to take extra care.
Some of the older square-foot floor tiles contain asbestos that was used to fireproof their undersides, Richards said.
So long as they aren’t disturbed, they pose no health hazards to people in the school, he said, but people working on them do need to wear masks and take other precautions.
Hildebrandt said the district surveyed all of its buildings for asbestos several years ago.
While there are no immediate hazards, the district’s asbestos abatement program will eventually see all of its buildings completely free of the material, which can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer when inhaled.