By John Burton
RED BANK – The school district’s primary school still needs some work done.
A good portion of the repairs that need to be done are related to the damage caused by Super Storm Sandy; district officials are still negotiating with insurance companies about exactly what replacement and repair costs they will pay for, according to Debra Pappagallo, the district business administrator.
The primary school, located at 222 River St., was built in the early 1970s and sits on the banks of the Swimming River. It was damaged during flooding by Super Storm Sandy in October 2012 and the district has been addressing those issues ever since. Top on the list now is an overhaul of the heating and air conditioning equipment, which school officials say is a substantial project.
“Sandy has definitely made the situation something that we have to deal with now,” Board of Education President Ben Forest said.
According to Pappagallo, while all the emergency repairs have long been dispatched, the district has been slowly addressing long-term Sandy-related damage.
“It’s been a very long, ongoing process,” she said. “Part of the problem is a lot of the work that needs to be done can’t be done while school is in session.” That work must be relegated to evenings and holiday and summer breaks.
Since the storm water receded, projects completed immediately included having the carpeting torn up and floors replaced in about half of the building’s 34 classrooms and gym.
Still to come are replacement of the movable gym wall, new exterior and interior doors and replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in all the classrooms.
“This isn’t a quick cleanup, a fix-and-go,” Pappagallo said.
The overall project to repair Sandy damage is expected to take more than three years to complete, she said.
Even without the storm damage, “we would still be looking at serious repairs,” Forest said.
Most significant is the more than 20-year-old heating and cooling system, which was compromised by flooding. That work will have to be completed over the summer while the building is unoccupied.
“In addition to that, regular things need to be done in the summer in terms of preparing the building for the coming year,” said Harold Reid, interim superintendent of schools.
Pappagallo said there is no total estimate for the cost for repairs and replacements that have been made or need to be made.
“We’re still in the process of dealing with the insurance companies. It’s all about what they will cover,” she said.
So far, insurance has covered all of the storm-damage work and Pappagallo expects it to cover the projects still to be completed.
The district has received money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for work that may not be covered by insurance, she said.
But, according to Forest, that might not cover the bill. “It’s entirely possible we will have to put additional resources in on top of Sandy [money]” for other projects to be completed, he said.
Following Sandy, the district shut down for about two weeks and the primary school was closed for two additional weeks to get it up and running. In the interim, split sessions for primary students were conducted at the middle school at 101 Harding Road.