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North Shore Board of Education details $40M bond

Air conditioning upgrades are most popular item

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The North Shore School District Board of Education met with CSArch Architects in the high school library on Aug. 8 to hammer out the most significant details of the district’s proposed bond. For over three and a half hours, they discussed what should be included in the measure, what can be taken out and how much it could cost taxpayers.

By the end of the meeting, the proposed bond was valued at roughly $39.9 million, which would fund improvements at all five district schools. The tentative date for the vote is Dec. 10.

School board Vice President Dave Ludmar said that according to feedback from community members who were asked what they most want to see in the bond, improving the buildings’ air conditioning was “far and away” the most frequent response. Ludmar and board Trustee Tim Madden said that air conditioning is both a health issue and an instructional issue, because comfort is crucial to students and teachers.

“To me, getting that cooling is a priority,” Ludmar said, adding that the bond would be the perfect way to get that done.

The board decided to have centralized air conditioning installed at the middle and high schools, and to move the 98 window units in those two schools to the elementary schools. Only a select few rooms in the elementary schools now have air conditioning units, and those are based on the medical needs of specific students or faculty members.

If every building were to install central air, it could cost the district $5.5 million. Repurposing the window units could save about $1.7 million, reducing the cost to $3.8 million.

The bond would also fund improvements in the high school’s boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, which Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarizzo said would include much-needed storage space and privacy. Female student athletes who bring their own larger pieces of equipment, like lacrosse sticks and softball bats, often have to leave them outside the girls’ showers due to a lack of storage space. Redesigning the locker rooms would give students more places to put their belongings.

Additionally, private changing areas would be added to both locker rooms. These improvements would cost roughly $4.1 million.

The bond also includes a new corridor at North Shore High School, to alleviate crowding. Giarizzo said the building was initially built for grades 7 through 12, with middle school classes in the J wing and high school classes in the S wing. Now the school houses only high school students, who must move between the two wings frequently, and the main hallways can get crowded quickly.

“What this [new corridor] does is it gives a secure pass way from the J wing to the S wing, [and] from the S wing to the J wing,” Giarizzo explained. “It gives us the ability to create a secure courtyard . . . and so it’ll take kids far less time to get from one end of the building to the other end of the building without having to traverse all the way across or go outside in the rain.”

Giarizzo said he had presented the idea to students, and it was one of the changes that excited them the most. “It will be a real game-changer in the way the building works,” he said.

Perhaps the most significant item that was eliminated from the bond was the addition of stadium lighting at the high school. The lights would enable games to be played later, and allow use of the field to host community events in the evening, but trustees agreed that other projects were more important, and the possibility of holding events at night didn’t justify adding over $1 million to the bond. Trustee Joanna Commander added that stadium lights could adversely affect people who live nearby, creating more nighttime activity and noise.

The board initially made the stadium lighting a supplemental item, so it could be installed if the district were to have extra money. But trustees chose instead to add central air conditioning to the elementary schools if funding allows it.