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School work: District looks at needs as buildings age

Dick Anderson, project supervisor, with C.L. Linfoot, takes a look at ductwork in the Winship Elementary School that is part of a heating system at the school that has broken down and cannot be repaired. Cole Seeger, left, and Jeremiah Johnson review drawings of the system during the inspection Wednesday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The Grand Forks School District will need to spend an estimated $600,000 to $800,000 to replace the heating system at Winship Elementary School that broke down in late April, according to district officials.

The system "is broke and can't be repaired," said Ed Gerhardt, the district's business manager.

The hot-water boiler system will be replaced by new technology, a gas-fired, rooftop heating and cooling system, he said.

The failure did not cause any safety issues, nor did it affect personal use of hot water in the building.

The heating system was original to the school, which was constructed in 1974, said Rick Werness, buildings and grounds director for Grand Forks Public Schools.

He and other members of the district facilities maintenance staff as well as contractors from local mechanical engineering and architecture firms went room to room at Winship on Wednesday, removing ceiling tiles to check on location and quality of ductwork.

Analysis of the ductwork will allow the crew "to be strategic about where the rooftop units will go," said Andrew Budke, associate architect with JLG Architects of Grand Forks.

The heating system failure at Winship occurred as the school district is in the midst of thorough study of all its facilities, Werness said.

The study, conducted by JLG, "will look at everything," he said, and will address issues such as aging equipment.

Launched in February, the facilities assessment should be completed in January, when a final report is made public, he said.

The study, which encompasses deferred maintenance and long-range planning, will help the district evaluate its roughly 20 buildings, Gerhardt said.

"We'll look at the entire building—the heating and cooling, electrical, the windows."

That information will be used to prioritize "what is most important to address," he said, and for budget planning.

The cost to install a new heat pump system at Winship will be charged to the school district's building fund, Gerhardt said.

Work to prepare for installation of the new system has already begun.

Delivery of the new system equipment is expected to take between four to six weeks, he said.

The timing of the old unit's demise was a lucky break, Gerhardt said.

"We are fortunate it happened when it did. ... It would have been more catastrophic if it had happened during the winter."