Students and faculty at both Lumberport Elementary and Lumberport Middle schools will be breathing a little easier next year when contractors finish installing new heating and air conditioning systems at the two schools.
The Harrison County Board of Education received $500,000 for the elementary school and $835,000 for the middle school from the state's School Building Authority last year for the two projects.
Neil Quinn, clerk of the works for the county school system, said the county received the funding because of the health and safety factor.
"The SBA gives priority to student health and safety, and indoor air quality is considered a health issue. The new HVAC systems will improve not only the air quality but the overall comfort level of the students and staff," Quinn said.
More than 500 sixth-through-eighth graders attend Lumberport Middle School, a three-story brick structure that once housed a high school. The school, built in 1928, underwent some expansion in the early 1990s, with the addition of a new cafeteria and eight new classrooms built on either side of the old building.
Principal John Marchio's first teaching job was at the Lumberport school back in 1970. He has been principal of the school for the last three years.
"The school has never had air conditioning, so this will be a big help in the late spring and early fall. Hopefully, it will also bring a more even heat to the whole building," he said.
After several teachers complained last year of respiratory problems and other symptoms, the Harrison County Board of Education had an air quality study performed at the middle school. Until the new system could be installed, the board approved the cleaning of the current vents and the replacement of all the old ceiling tile in the halls, Marchio said.
"I'm pleased with Mr. Kittle and the board's efforts to satisfy the need here until the new systems can be installed. They did what they said they would do to make things better," he said.
Approximately 340 students in kindergarten-through-fifth grades attend Lumberport Elementary School, according to Norman Vanmeter, who has been principal since 1978.
The school, built in the 1930s, is the last steam-heated system in the county. The next oldest, Washington Irving Middle School, was replaced with a $900,000 state SBA grant last year.
"The heating system is actually pretty comfortable, but it will make a difference to have the air conditioning when we have our summer programs this year," Vanmeter said.
The two schools are bid as one project and the bids will be open the first week of June.
If the low bid is approved by the board at its June 6 meeting, construction could begin the next few weeks after that, Quinn said. Both projects are to be completed within a year of the starting date.
Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.