A breath of fresh air

A breath of fresh air
Students and staff at Vermillion Middle School should be able to breathe a little easier when classes resume this fall.

Workers from Johnson Controls in Sioux Falls have been busy the past week installing a new state-of-the-art ventilation system at the school.

The new technology replaces the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that has been part of the school since the time of its construction 37 years ago.

"That original equipment had a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years," Dr. Mark Froke, Vermillion school superintendent, said.

Johnson Controls, a firm that specializes in heating and cooling systems, has been hired by the school district for several years to do what is needed to keep the original, aging ventilation system operational.

"The school board took a look at the cost of maintenance as well as the cost savings in energy, and decided that replacement would be a very cost effective decision to make," Froke said.

Renovation of the school's ventilation system comes with a $635,000 price tag. It is funded through the issuing of capital outlay certificates, and a portion of the district's capital outlay fund.

The new system will not only provide a more comfortable environment in the middle school. It will also ease the school district's spending on upkeep and maintenance.

"The school board worked with Johnson Controls in studying that issue," Froke said, "and determined that the cost to purchase certificates to install the new units is actually less expensive than the cost of the upkeep of the old system."

The entire school will be air conditioned, including the kitchen, which gets uncomfortably warm, and the building's gymnasium.

Originally, the gymnasium hadn't been air conditioned. Not replacing the old ventilation system would have required the installation of a custom-built unit to provide cool air to the gym.

"Standard units today come with air conditioning automatically," Froke said, "so it's actually going to be cheaper to provide air conditioning to the middle school gym than to not provide it."

School administrators also won't have to dip quite as deep into the general fund to pay for heating costs this winter.

"It's been calculated that the energy savings will be approximately $8,000 a year," Froke said. "The ventilation and the heating will be dispersed more evenly than before."

The project includes renovation of plumbing, electrical and duct work systems in the school building.

The target date for completion of the project is Aug. 10, a short time before the new school year begins.

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