DCS completes $80,000 HVAC project at U.S. Jones

Despite the warm outdoor temperatures, some students at U.S. Jones Elementary School were asking to wear their jackets during physical education time Friday.

The sudden drop in temperature in the school’s gymnasium can be attributed to the completion of a heating and cooling project that has been on the school’s radar for a decade.

“It was a lengthy process. We had it on our capital outlay list for about 10 years,” U.S. Jones Elementary School Principal Dr. Tony Speegle said of the project. “(Demopolis City Schools Superintendent of Education Dr.  Al Griffin) and Roger Locke, they just made it all happen and put it all together. The board and the capital outlay committee got everything squared away. Money was assigned to it. Darren Anderson did a fantastic job in a short period of time. So Anderson Plumbing and Heating, they deserve a ton of credit.”

The gymnasium at USJ has never contained a heating and cooling system, frequently leaving physical education classes and school assemblies at the mercy of outdoor temperatures.

“We are so excited to have air. I’ll be honest, that has been a long time coming,” Griffin said. “We had third, fourth and fifth graders having P.E. in a gym without air for far too long. And when I got here that was something I realized I needed to tackle.”

The push to undertake the project began more than a year ago when the school system applied for a grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

“We completed the grant in September 2011 through ADECA. It’s an energy grant. It’ll fund up to $50,000 of a heating and air project,” Griffin said. “We were able to get the grant and we had until Sept. 30 to get the job complete. So we bid it out through Grimes Architects. (Butch Grimes) was our architect on a lot of our HVAC projects throughout the school system. I thank all of our staffers and I thank the board. The architect fees plus this project was about $80,000. This grant paid 50 of it. So I thank the board for allowing us to do capital outlay monies to absorb the rest of this expense. We thank ADECA. We thank the board. We thank Grimes Architects. We thank Darren Anderson for the great job that they did.”

The completion of the project will make life a little bit easier for students during P.E. at USJ as well as help to provide more comfort and safety to school assemblies, which were previously held at the Theo Ratliff Activity Center adjacent to the school.

“There are so many factors that are going to benefit not only physical education, but us not having to leave our facility to go other places to have assemblies,” U.S. Jones P.E. teacher Brian Bradley said. “Six months out of the year, it is really hot in that gym. Having to leave our campus every time we have an assembly is crazy. It’s dangerous because we have to walk down the street to get to another facility. Being able to take care of our own here is going to be really nice.”

“I think it’s going to be a big impact because, when it gets so hot, it’s a lot harder to get them to participate. They don’t want to be active because they’re concentrating so much on being hot. If they do get active or participate, it makes it work. I think there’s a lot more interruptions for wanting to get water or wanting to take breaks,” USJ P.E. teacher Tammy Causey said. “I know in the past, we’ve had some where we’ve actually let the kids bring bottles of water to P.E. because it has been so hot. There have been some, where we’ve actually had to limit our activity because it has been so hot. The heat index has is too high. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about any of those days.”

The school system will now attempt to duplicate the project at the Demopolis Middle School gymnasium, having already applied for a $20,000 ADECA grant to help fund that endeavor.

“We’re already doing site evaluations to do an identical project at the middle school,” Griffin said, adding that DCS expects to hear back from ADECA by the end of this year or in early January 2013.