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Carlynton School District projects outlined by construction firm president

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 9:32 p.m.

Carlynton School Board will move “with all deliberate haste” on its ongoing renovation project, board President David Roussos said last week.

That promise came during a nearly three-hour public forum on the district's renovations at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School. Jon Thomas, president and co-founder of construction management firm Thomas and Williamson, outlined some of the options available for the district during the forum.

“There's no reason not to do it, not to move forward, but I'm hearing other things (about how) maybe it makes sense to wait ... to learn if money's going to be available to fund some of these things,” Roussos said.

“Speaking for myself, I'm committed to doing this. I think we need to do it sooner rather than later, (but) we need to be smart.”

The main issues for the district at this point appear to be the heating and air conditioning at Carnegie and Crafton elementaries, as well as security in the district's three buildings.

Security has become a sticking point for many districts in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in mid-December, Thomas said.

“I think it's fair to say that every client that I have, and some that I've had for years that I haven't talked to in a while, we've all been talking over the past couple of weeks because of what happened up in Connecticut,” Thomas said. “Even clients that are very aggressive with their safety and security, they've called me and said, ‘Is there anything more we can do?'”

Thomas said each school needs a “captured vestibule” that restricts access into the school. With captured vestibules, people would enter a building from the outside and then would need to enter the main office before getting into the school.

To accomplish that at Carnegie and Crafton elementaries, Thomas said, the main offices would need to be moved from their current location.

Because Sandy Hook had a captured vestibule and the shooter shot his way into the school anyway, Thomas proposed that Carlynton take an additional security step and install a security window with bulletproof glass inside the vestibule. An employee would screen visitors before allowing them into the office.

“That's one step further than we've been going with our captured vestibule designs in our schools, and it's one step further than what Connecticut had,” Thomas said.

Carlynton also needs to improve its door security by installing card readers or similar entry systems at all exterior doors, Thomas said.

On the heating and air-conditioning front, Thomas offered the board one short-term and two long-term options. The short-term option involved installing just the ventilation and air-conditioning unit right away.

The long-term options include a direct expansion (DX) system, where air is cooled directly from the refrigerant, or a four-pipe system, in which two pipes are dedicated to hot water and two are dedicated to chilled water.

Thomas said the four-pipe system is the “tried and true” system and lasts longer, but it costs more money and would require a full-scale renovation — including replacing ceilings, floors, lights and paint.

Thomas said for air-conditioning to be in placed in the elementary schools by the fall, a decision needs to be made quickly. The board might instead pursue other short-term fixes such as exhaust systems and temporary free-standing air conditioners.

“I would look for us to make intelligent long-term decisions,” board member Jim Schriver said. “We might then need to take some temporary short-term measures ... to even lower the temperature by five, six or seven degrees.”

Other potential renovations discussed at the meeting include additions on the lower level of Carnegie Elementary and five classrooms at Crafton Elementary.

Thomas said the board will need to wait to see whether the state lifts a moratorium on a reimbursement program for construction projects, known as PlanCon, before undergoing large-scale renovations such as additions. The state froze new applications for the program after Oct. 1, 2012.

“We don't know when they're opening it back up, or if they will,” Thomas said.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or

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