As a member of the District Bond Implementation committee, I have attend monthly meetings where we receive progress reports as well as discuss input from the individual school committees and school forums and make recommendations based on this input and our combined experiences in this community. The committee consists of principals, the architect (GMB), Clark Construction, EL planning, ELPL, community members, board members, cabinet members and the superintendent. The committee structure is posted on the website.
The major focus, of late, has been Red Cedar, since it will be completed first as well as Glencairn and Donley as they will be the first two new buildings. Since Red Cedar is a remodel, it won’t have all the same options as new. Several committee members have asked about, and insisted upon, green options for all of our buildings, at every meeting I have attended since the bond passed. We have made it clear that if there is an option to do this green, let’s!
In regards to RC, the plans include all new HVAC which will improve efficiency, windows and siding to decrease heating and cooling losses, a chiller that makes ice at night to cool the building by day and save cost by taking advantage of the lower nighttime electric costs and all buildings will be solar ready. Lastly, all water supply pipes and drinking water access sites will be replaced to improve water safety.
In regards to the parking lot, many questions have been asked in different parts of the Bond implementation process. Many different experts have been brought in to look at the best way to safely deliver our students to school and stay within budget as well as other considerations. Let’s start with what we know. The black top at Red Cedar is 13 years old. While mostly unused since 2014, it gets heavier traffic than many of the other schools due to event parking. Typical life span of a parking surface is 15 years give or take a few years. So several problems are created if we do nothing with the current parking lot. At some point in the foreseeable future it is going to have to be redone. If we don’t do it with bond funds, we will need to do it with sinking funds, grant funds, general funds or capital project funds. The hope with sinking bond funds moving forward is to cut it in half or use half for on-going technology needs circumventing the need for an additional tech bond. Because all of our buildings will be new or fairly new, less money is needed in the sinking fund to replace roofs, do parking lots etc. This is part of the overall district financial plan. Not using bond funds might require asking for a larger sinking fund in the near future. Or possibly using capital project funds (some of which is ear marked for vehicle replacement and some, I believe, for musical instruments)? Do we write a grant? There are trade offs with every scenario. Do you tell band they need to keep using 20 year old instruments so RC can get a parking lot that should have done with bond funds?
Another issue is liability. What if we do nothing and someone gets injured? There are areas of the parking lot that are in pretty bad shape. While we have insurance, it will be hard to justify why we didn’t prevent this when we had the funds available.
So let’s assume we agree now is the time to address the black top. There are new standards in regards to storm water since the last parking lot was laid. We also know more about heat reflected off these surfaces and how it impacts climate change.
Decreasing pavement (the current plan calls for a decrease of 2500 sq ft of black top) is good for reducing both urban heat island effect (similar to global warming concept) and storm-water management. It’s also good for long term maintenance, as any “additional” paving will have to be maintained and eventually replaced. The City of East Lansing’s Storm-water guidelines have two separate categories that need to be evaluated any time we make changes to pavement. The first is “quantity,” which means that we need to meet the most stringent standards any time we EXCEED the amount of existing impervious surface, even by 1 square foot. Since we have a net decrease, we are not required to meet this standard. The second guideline is a “quality” standard, which is primarily concerned with treating the “first flush,” or the initial run-off that occurs immediately after a rain event starts. This initial run-off includes suspended solids, such as dirt and other particles that are on the surface of the pavement. Any modification to the paved surface (i.e. even just repaving the current configuration) would require us to meet this quality standard and deal with the treatment of the first flush run-off. The option that is in the plan is a rain-garden, which uses soil and native plant matter to help filter out the solids prior to releasing into the municipal system. There is another way to meet the quality standard, but this would include a series of underground piping and catch basins with swirl chambers that are needed to help remove the suspended solids before releasing it into the municipal system. Overall, the rain-garden is a more sustainable solution than the catch basins and swirl chambers, which require regular maintenance and cleaning to make sure they are functioning correctly. All new buildings will have new parking lots which will be just as heavily scrutinized with the ultimate goal to minimize impervious surfaces while also providing for safe drop off and pick up of students. The reality is that a majority of our students are driven to school from within our district. We need to consider this reality as we plan for the future.
The biggest difference between RC and the new builds is that the current plan calls for a Geothermal component to the heating units in all the new buildings. Geothermal “tubing” that goes to a depth of 300′ will be placed in a grid to preheat air going into the heating unit. Also, lots of natural lighting is planned into classrooms as well as shared lighting from hall ways.
As mentioned above, ALL buildings will be solar ready. The technology is improving rapidly and the cost is expected to decrease. Adding solar to our new buildings will require additional funds for panels but it will be easy to implement once they are purchased due to the planning currently taking place.