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Local schools invited to seek state funds for repairs

A classroom at Montclair Elementary School  in Quincy before (left) and after windows were replaced.

A classroom at Montclair Elementary School in Quincy before (left) and after windows were replaced.

Quincy Public Schools

When North Quincy High School underwent a renovation and addition in 1978-80, one of the enhancements to the then half-century-old building was a set of new windows.

More than three decades later, school officials say those windows that once helped give the building new life are themselves in pressing need of replacement.

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“They’re typical of the era — they are non-insulated plastic windows. They are not energy-efficient,” said Laura Owens, executive assistant to School Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro, noting that the window panes also limit the amount of natural light that flows into the classroom.

Quincy now has an opportunity to secure state funds to replace the windows not only at North Quincy but also in the Merrymount and Wollaston elementary schools, where they are similarly outmoded.

The three schools are among 13 from five area districts that were recently invited by the Massachusetts School Building Authority into its Accelerated Repair Program. The other area schools newly entering the program are in Easton, Pembroke, Randolph, and Stoughton.

The state agency’s board selected 43 schools in all for the program, which provides partial reimbursement for projects to repair or replace school roofs, windows, and boilers.

Selected schools must develop schematic designs and project budgets over the coming months. The school building authority, if it approves the plan, can vote to provide partial reimbursement for a project, subject to the district authorizing the full amount.

The invitation allows Quincy to extend a working relationship with the agency that “began with the construction of our new Quincy High School building and continues on our current project, a new building for the Central Middle School,” DeCristofaro said in a statement.

“The new windows will enhance classroom learning environments, help our schools to become more energy-efficient, and enhance the aesthetics of these historic buildings, which are prominently located neighborhood landmarks,” he said.

The proposed new projects follow similar window replacements that the city carried out last year at Montclair Elementary School without the agency’s funds.

The proposed upgrades would provide the three schools with more functional and efficient windows, said Christopher Walker, a spokesman for Mayor Thomas P. Koch, adding, “Aesthetics and giving kids the ability to get sunshine into the room is also a big piece of it.”

The school building authority would reimburse up to 80 percent of the cost, yet to be estimated. Provided the agency and the City Council approve the funding, the city hopes to begin the project later this year.

Easton’s project, the cost of which also has not been estimated, calls for replacing the roof and the two boilers at Moreau Hall Elementary School. The state’s invitation came as the town was preparing to begin a roof replacement at its middle school under the same program.

Easton originally applied for funds for four schools. Though to date only two have been invited into the program, the town is “ecstatic” at the recent news, said David Twombly, the district’s director of school operations.

The roof at Moreau is about 20 years old and in need of replacement, Twombly said, while the boilers, original to the 1962 school, are inefficient and “on borrowed time.”

If the school building authority approves funding for the project, officials hope to seek an appropriation from Special Town Meeting in October, with a goal of carrying out the work in summer 2014. The cost has not been estimated.

Stoughton School Superintendent Marguerite Rizzi said her district is also thrilled at the chance to secure funds for projects to replace windows at Dawe and Hansen elementary schools, and the roof at West Elementary school.

“We have eight schools, and the last building completed in our system was in 1970,” she said. “That’s the reason the repair program is so crucial to us.”

Rizzi said the upgrades at Hansen and Dawe schools would provide those buildings with new windows that are “much better insulated” and with clearer panes. She said the roof at West “is well past its expected natural life.”

Town Meeting already appropriated the $750,000 needed for the Hansen project last year, and on June 17 appropriated the $830,000 needed for the West roof and the $945,000 needed for the Dawe windows. The town projects the state reimbursement, if approved, at 56.7 percent.

Randolph is seeking state funds for replacement of the three boilers at Community Middle School and part of the roof at the high school.

The middle school boilers were installed in 1999, but are in poor shape, according to Steven Moore, the district’s director of finance. “They are failing and leaking. They’ve been repaired several times and are just no longer capable of being repaired,” he said.

The high school project calls for replacing the last remaining section of a roof installed in 1980. The other sections were replaced in previous projects.

Moore estimated the cost of the high school project at $450,000 and the middle school project at $225,000. If the school building authority and Town Council approve funds, he said the work could go forward next spring or summer.

Pembroke was invited into the program for proposed roof repairs at Hobomock and North Pembroke elementary schools, Community Middle School, and the high school.

The district had applied to the program for all five of its schools “and we are extremely excited that four of the five have been invited to move forward,” Erin Obey, the district’s director of finance and operations, said by e-mail.

All the schools have undergone extensive renovations over the past decade, but the projects did not involve replacing the roofs, which are “20 and 30 years old,” Obey said.

A 2010 study estimated the price of roof replacements at all five schools at $8 million to $10 million. Obey said if the state agency agrees to reimbursement — the projected rate is 52 percent — the district would hope to seek funding from fall Town Meeting. A special election would then need to be called to take up a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase.

If the projects go forward, the work would take place in the summer of 2014.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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