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Erie schools’ ventilation fixes, Roosevelt demo advance

Ed Palattella
epalattella@timesnews.com
The former Roosevelt Middle School is shown on Sept. 18. Demolition crews started dismantling the inside of the building on Monday.

he Erie School District is moving ahead with two major building projects — one designed to return students to school buildings safely and the other to get rid of a school building the district declared unsafe years ago.

The Erie School Board at a special meeting on Monday approved contracts to update the school district’s ventilation systems in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also on Monday, demolition crews started to dismantle the interior of the 98-year-old Roosevelt Middle School, 2300 Cranberry St., in preparation for razing the building later this fall.

“It will take a couple of weeks to get the inside cleaned out before they can bring down the building,” said Neal Brokman, the Erie School District’s executive director of operations.

Empire Excavation and Demolition Inc., of Waterford, since June has been under a $379,000 contract with the school district to remove the 99,000-square-foot Roosevelt and clear and seed the 3.58-acre lot by Dec. 31, though Brokman said the school district expects the work to be done before then.

The district closed Roosevelt in 2007 because of declining enrollment and the cost of repairs. The district is tearing down the school because of safety concerns and to make the lot more attractive to potential buyers. Site work to prepare for the demolition started a week ago.

The ventilation fixes eventually will affect all of the school district’s 16 school buildings to varying degrees, though the district is focusing on repairing the most outdated systems first.

At a special meeting on Monday, held virtually, the School Board unanimously awarded a $656,000 contract to Rabe Environmental Systems Inc., of Erie, for the ventilation repairs. The board unanimously awarded a $159,700 contract to Keystone Electric, of Erie, for the electrical work related to the repairs.

The Erie School District received three quotes each for both jobs. The district awarded the contracts using a state-approved expedited process that accounted for the need to get the buildings repaired quickly to get students back to in-person classes as soon as possible.

The work is scheduled to be done by Nov. 3 for the elementary schools, except Edison Elementary, which is to undergo a large-scale renovation, and by Dec. 8 for the middle and high school buildings.

All of the traditional students in the 11,000-student Erie School District have been taking online-only classes since school started Sept. 8. Pending School Board approval, elementary school students are to take in-person and online classes on alternating days starting sometime in the second quarter, which starts Nov. 5. Middle and high school students are expected to take online-only classes through the spring, pending School Board approval.

The contracts awarded Monday came in at $815,000, much less than the $1.5 million that the school district’s architects had estimated for the ventilation repairs. The Erie School District had always planned to include ventilation repairs in its $80.8 million renovation program launched in 2019, but the pandemic added urgency to the project.

The upgrades to the ventilation systems will include equipping existing and new air-handling units with ultraviolet lights and what is known as bipolar ionization technology, Brokman said.

Ultraviolet lights help kill viruses and bacteria, and negative ions help remove fine particles from the air and reduce the amount of airborne pathogens, including viruses, according to an air-quality improvement report that the Erie School District prepared for the ventilation repairs.

Brokman on Monday said he was aware of reports about concerns with the efficacy and safety of the new technology, which was mentioned in a New York Times story published online on Monday. He said the district will discuss the concerns with its engineering firm to ensure that the new systems are safe. He said the ionization technology appears to be in wide use.

Contact Ed Palattella at epalattella@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.