Ravenna schools plan to invest millions in COVID funds into HVAC, filtration

The Ravenna School District plans to invest millions in COVID relief funds in HVAC systems with air filtration for its schools.

Superintendent Dennis Honkala said the project will combine federal COVID grants with permanent improvement funds, and replace HVAC systems in Brown Middle School and West Main, West Park and Wilyard elementary schools. Many of those systems, he said, are old and in need of replacement, but doing those projects now would also require filtration systems meant to reduce disease.

“There is a new emphasis on filtration and purification,” he said. “The need has become clear to take a good look at that.”

If the project proceeds on a timetable set by consultants at Fanning Howey, the work would be completed in time for the 2022-2023 school year.

The district, Honkala said, plans to combine federal emergency funds for elementary and secondary schools with dollars from a permanent improvement levy approved in 2017 and due for renewal in November.

Ravenna High School, which was built in 2010 and has central air conditioning, is not part of the project. The former Carlin Elementary School, which has air conditioners for windows, could also be excluded from the project, Honkala said. Work there would be offered as an “alternative,” he said, stressing the plan is “tentative”. Carlin now houses the district’s administrative offices and kindergarten.

Incoming Chief Inspector Dr. Laura Hebert said having access to both funds allows the district to look at a more comprehensive project.

“Rather than going through the cost and scope of building all the new buildings, we can better use our resources to make long-term improvements to these buildings that will benefit students now and in the future,” she said.

Fanning Howey project lead Dan Obrynba said the project would begin with a comprehensive evaluation of all buildings, with bids coming out in December or January. The bids would be awarded in February to give contractors more time to obtain materials, and to make it more likely that the work would be completed before school begins in 2022.

If a material or labor shortage affected the timeline, Obrynba suggested adding a second or third shift so contractors can work when school isn’t busy. Multiple contracts would allow local bidders to be considered for the job.

Fanning Howey’s Timothy Lehman said that while material prices have risen, some prices are beginning to fall. Therefore, it is not clear how much the project would cost.

Honkala told the board that there are many “exit” roads along the way and that the board should feel free to raise questions and concerns along the way.

“I do believe we are in front of a lot of districts,” he said.

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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