By Mark Esper
State education officials have recommended Silverton School District receive a grant for nearly $9.5 million to overhaul the 98-year-old school building and nearby gym.
Final approval of the grant from the State Board of Education is expected in mid-August.
“It’s really looking like this building rehabilitation project is moving forward,” said School Superintendent Kim White.
White said the school district has rounded up funding to cover 90 percent of the $11.2 million project cost. She said the district is still looking at ways of coming up with the additional $1 million to $1.2 million it will need for the project.
“A mill levy is an option, but we have other options as well,” White said Monday evening during a briefing to the Silverton Town Council.
White said voters can expect some sort of election this November, either to authorize the school district to borrow money or for a millage to finance the school’s portion of the construction costs. White said that if a mill levy is needed, it would likely be no more than 1.5 mills for 20 years.
White said that among the more innovative parts of the project is an entire new heating system for the school and gym.
The idea is to make the school a high-efficiency “green” building. A geothermal heating system is being explored as part of that effort.
White said that in late August a drilling team will be taking a look at what’s under the school playground, hoping to find enough heat 150 feet down to boost the school’s heating system.
“The drilling is to see what it really looks like in reality before we go down that path,” White said.
The current timetable for the construction project envisions the school finding temporary quarters in other buildings in town starting in January 2010. By fall of 2010, the building should be ready for occupancy again.
White said the project will at last address “an ever-growing list of needs” the school faces.
That list includes:
• New electrical wiring;
• New fire alarm and fire suppression system;
• New heating system;
• New cafeteria and lunchroom;
• Classroom and science lab upgrades;
• Technology upgrades;
• Installation of an elevator;
• A new secure entrance on Snowden Street.
Historic preservation of the building is also a goal. White said the outside of the structure will look a lot more like it did originally. Inside, however, will be a different story.
“The goal inside is for an historic feel rather than historic accuracy,” White said, as the school modernizes.
White also emphasized that the school project will allow greater community use of the school and gym.
She said she envisions open gym nights with “a legitimate weight room for this community.”
The school would also be glad to share its video-conferencing capabilities and use of the new kitchen, perhaps even as an incubator for start-up businesses to use when available.