Meeting for its regular monthly session in the high school library — because the usual band room venue was too cold — the Rappahannock County School Board, not entirely coincidentally, focused on repairs to school facilities Tuesday night.
Much of the meeting was taken up by reports by school administrators on progress made toward first-year Superintendent Aldridge Boone’s overarching goals for the school division — meetings they’d held with staff, volunteers, parents and others over the last two months to formulate steps toward increasing academic rigor, community involvement, communications, technology usage by students and more.
Certain other discussions were more concrete. These included Boone’s reports to the board on why students at both the high school and elementary school were sent home early Tuesday, after a well pump apparently failed at the elementary school, cutting off water supply throughout the school. With students kept home again Wednesday, Boone said, workmen were able to identify the faulty pump and replace it; as of press time, he said both schools should be back in session Thursday and Friday (Dec. 16-17).
The high school students were sent home as well, Boone said, for a mix of reasons: the fact that many are needed to look after younger siblings, the complications of two separate bus runs, and the bitter-cold temperatures this week, which several heating systems at the high school clearly had trouble coping with. Workmen were also trying to solve those problems Wednesday.
The schools will close for a Christmas/New Year’s break after Friday, reopening Monday, Jan. 3.
The reports also included board member Beth Hilscher’s update on the latest developments in long-planned energy-related repairs and renovations. Overseen by a joint county-school committee, the work is scheduled to include replacement of many single-pane windows with more energy-efficient units, as well as updating the heating and air-conditioning system to replace the many aging and leak-prone window units.
Because of asbestos found years ago — and sealed off — in the high school’s oldest sections, which date to 1960, she said, discussions with the engineering firm hired by the county to oversee the facility improvements have come to the point “where we have to deal with the asbestos issue.
“To solve heating and cooling problems, and the replacement of lighting,” she said, “solving the asbestos problem may be less expensive than the alternative of working around it.”
She read school board members an email from County Administrator John W. McCarthy, in which he authorized the committee to direct the engineers to seek an estimate for asbestos abatement, though he made it clear that no decision had been made by county officials to pursue the work.
“According to the ballpark estimate I was able to get,” Hilscher said, the roughly 10,000 square feet of asbestos abatement could cost about $15 a square foot, or $150,000.”
“We will need conduits and returns for any new HVAC system,” McCarthy said by phone on Wednesday. “If we can’t touch the ceilings [because of the sealed-off asbestos], there really is no other place, not in the ceilings, floors or walls, to run those conduits. It will have to be dealt with in some way.”