RSS contracts firm to design district-wide air upgrades

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, March 30, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools has designated a firm to manage a series of projects to upgrade heating and air systems in all of its schools.

The district has set aside $28 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to upgrade its HVAC systems across the district. Improving air quality is one of the limited number of approved uses for the pot of relief money the funding was taken from.

The board approved contracting with Charlotte firm Moseley Architects to design and oversee the construction of the upgrades on Monday.

District Chief Operations Officer Anthony Vann said Moseley was selected through a request for qualification process. There were four submissions and Moseley was picked via a committee using a grading matrix.

The broader project will be broken up into bid packages that will allow smaller, local companies to be part of the process.

A report prepared by Moseley lays out the estimated cost by school. The costs range from none for buildings with updated systems or expected closures, to about $150,000 on the low end and up to $2.6 million each for upgrades to East and South Rowan high schools.

The total cost of the project, including a 5% contingency fund, comes in at $27.9 million.

Board member Kevin Jones noted his concern the bidding packages will be in line with estimates as they begin in the next month or so.

Vann said it is a true estimate but it is based on recent, similar projects in other districts.

“The issue is equipment right now,” Vann said. “Some pieces of equipment are a long way out.”

Moseley COO Jason Forsyth said the firm took “escalation factors” into account when it created the estimates. He said there are indications prices will stabilize in the third and fourth quarters.

Superintendent Tony Watlington said he thinks this project is a good opportunity to use the relief money in a way that will benefit students for more than a decade.

In other news from the meeting:

• The board approved adding 10 teachers to its partnership with Global Teachers. The district currently hires 5 English As a Second Language teachers through the program and pays $17,500 to secure each teacher.

The total cost of fielding 15 teachers will be $262,500, but Chief Human Resources Officer Jill Hall-Freeman explained to the board the cost is neutral when compared to the allotment per-teacher awarded by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction because Global Teachers pays for the teacher’s health care and handles securing visas for international candidates.

Hall-Freeman said the teachers will be focused in high-need areas: ESL and secondary education.

The district, and the state, are facing teacher shortages. During the same meeting, Watlington noted fewer people are enrolling in university education programs each year.

“I think it’s good to be as creative as possible to get teachers when we can,” Jones said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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