Old Oak Ridge Boiler

Jon Nelson inspects the old boiler at the Oak Ridge School.

The Sandwich School District is in the process of replacing the aging boilers at the town’s two elementary schools—a project that has the financial support of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The heating systems at both the Oak Ridge and Forestdale schools are 30 years old and are approaching end-of-life status, said facilities director Jonathan R. Nelson. They are the original boilers from when the two buildings were constructed in 1989.

The current boilers are large and loud. Mr. Nelson said that in the past three decades, advancements have been made that would allow the district to utilize several smaller units instead of the large ones.

Mr. Nelson said the rough estimate to replace the two systems is $600,000 in total. This figure includes the cost of the units as well as installation.

Through the state’s so-called Accelerated Repair Program, the district may be able to recoup up to half of the cost of the project. The program helps school districts across the state with repair projects. All of the projects approved for the 2019 program are either boiler or roof repairs.

The district applied to the program earlier in the year for both schools, hoping to have at least one of the projects accepted. The state accepted both.

Mr. Nelson said that the district is currently getting background documents together for the state, which are due by September 26. The next phase is the schematic design, which will help determine a more accurate budget for the work.

One caveat to the program is that the district has to fund the upfront cost for the boiler replacement and the state will reimburse up to half of that cost. In order to obtain that funding, the district will most likely have to ask for town approval at the Annual Town Meeting, said School Superintendent Pamela A. Gould.

Mr. Nelson hopes that there are ways to trim costs without compromising quality. One of the areas he is looking at is the schematic design. Since the two schools have the exact same layout, he hopes that they will only need to commission one set of plans.

“One design for both schools should keep costs down,” he said.

He said that the design phase should begin in the fall and be completed by the middle of the winter, at the latest.

While the boilers have not failed yet, he said that they are “old and ready.” He said that the district is trying to be proactive in its replacement of the units to avoid an emergency situation such as when the chiller failed at Sandwich High School in 2016.

The high school was designed to require the use of central air conditioning, particularly in its use of windowless internal classrooms. When the chiller failed, the district had to scramble to find a replacement unit, resulting in an unbudgeted $30,000 expenset to rent a temporary unit.

If the boilers at either of the elementary schools were to fail, the schools would be forced to close.

And failure, he said, is only a matter of time if the boilers are not replaced soon.

“The MSBA wouldn’t approve it if it wasn’t important,” Mr. Nelson said.

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