By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield School District has recently wrapped up a several-year, $5.4 million renovation to Marshfield Middle School aimed mostly at updating the infrastructure of the building.
Multiple sections of new roof, a redone parking lot, new exterior windows, lockers, lighting, a new HVAC system, a remodeled and relocated central office, safety and security updates, upgrades for accommodating technology, and a guidance room remodel account for the project costs.
The number of cameras in the school was doubled, and an access control system in order to monitor and control who enters the building was added. Director of Building and Grounds Ron Sturomski said that initially the project scope did not include these security measures, but in December of 2012 the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary took place, causing him and the district to consider the need for increased safety.
Sturomski estimated that the upgrades should extend the viability of the building for at least 25 years.
“It (the Middle School) was in really bad repair,” said Marshfield School District’s Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman.
Sturomski noted that while the building is not perfect, it is now in step with all of the other schools in the district for regularly scheduled maintenance and updates rather than needing to be caught up and modernized.
The renovation was officially completed at the end of August this year.
Funding the work
The renovation project was given the green light to proceed by the Marshfield School Board in April of 2012 after extensive deliberation about whether to renovate the existing building or build new, Saucerman said.
A number of factors allowed the district to fund the project without borrowing money, including an uptick in open enrollment from students in neighboring districts, savings through energy conservation projects undertaken, and a reduction in use of health care services from district staff after the passage of Act 10.
“In (2012) when project work began, we had around 200 kids coming to Marshfield through open enrollment. Last year that number increased to 260. Each student increases our revenue by about $6,600, so this has also been an important revenue stream for us,” Saucerman said. He also noted, “We’ve seen our utility costs decrease in recent years due to the energy work and upgrades in building technologies. This has gained us some operational savings, which we redirected into the building project.”
Also supporting the project were funds from the district’s operational referendum, which has supplied the district with an extra $2.5 million annually since 2013.
Saucerman added, “Because (the project) spanned four summers, we were able to come up with the payments over time, which made our ability to cover costs all the more feasible.”
A piecemeal project
One of the challenges of the project was the district’s goal to keep the building fully open and functional for students during the school year, which meant a vast majority of the work had to be done in sections over the course of four summers, from 2012-2015. It also meant that construction teams, managed by general contractor and project manager Boson Company Inc., would work on renovations for about three months during the summer and then take an extended break during the school year.
“When you do a project over a (multiple) year period, you know, ‘I’ll see you in nine months, guys,’ and everybody shows back up and knows what’s going on, that’s some good management,” Sturomski said of Boson’s work. “It was pretty impressive actually to do a project over a (several) year period.”
“It was all about trying to get whatever we could possibly get done without any disruption to kids,” Saucerman added.
The aesthetic and student experience
Aside from a remodeled and relocated front office, most of the work that was done in this renovation was “behind the walls,” as Sturomski said. The look of the building did not change dramatically, which might lead people to believe that not much was done to improve it.
“That is the tough part of this,” Sturomski said, though he added that tuck pointing to the exterior brick as well as sandblasting of the exterior of the building have helped freshen up its appearance.
Sturomski said now that the infrastructure of the building is sound and modernized, future renovations to the building could focus on more aesthetic improvements. Prior to the renovations, the middle school was the building most in need of updates of any school in the district, said both Sturomski and Saucerman.
Sturomski added that with upgrades to the building’s technological infrastructure, it can now support an evolving curriculum that will increasingly utilize technology in teaching. He added that the new HVAC system would make the building more comfortable for students.
“I think just the comfort level now would have to help student achievement,” Sturomski said.