Coronavirus shutdown lets Butler County schools get jump on construction projects

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The school shutdowns last month forced by the coronavirus also marked the start up of many school building construction and renovation projects previously scheduled for the summer break.

The emptying of dozens of local school buildings, has freed up some districts to begin taking advantage of not having to navigate around thousands of students, teachers and staffers to work on their facilities.

And the lull in the usual school calendar schedule has also allowed area districts to perform vehicle maintenance on their school bus fleets.

Moreover, empty buildings have undergone facility adjustments to save energy on heating and cooling and to better maintain the structures while they remain largely empty.

Ohio’s public and private schools were ordered shuttered by state officials last month, with students moving to at-home, remote online instruction for those able to do so.

And Monday Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued further orders for all schools in the state to continue to conduct only remote learning while keeping school buildings closed through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

ExploreMORE: Coronavirus: Ohio K-12 schools to finish academic year remotely

Speeding up the start dates for school facility upgrades helps both local school systems and area construction and other related area businesses hired to do the work, said officials with Butler Tech career schools.

“With so many ongoing projects at Butler Tech on our facilities and grounds, we are making it a priority to move forward while the campuses are empty,” said A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Butler Tech.

“With no students or staff in the buildings, these projects are less of a disruption than they might be during a normal year but most importantly, it’s another way that Butler Tech can support some of the very industries that so many of our students are gaining the skills and certifications to work in,” said Huff.

“Keeping these projects going supports these industries and shows our commitment to these businesses and their essential employees,” she said.

Ohio’s public school districts are autonomous and have varying infrastructure needs at any given time.

Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman at Butler County’s largest school system – the 16,800-student Lakota Schools – said the district is “following the social distancing guidelines which prohibits us from having many employees working on projects in the same location.”

But Fuller, added “our operations team has been working on minor repairs and preventative maintenance during this time (and) our transportation department has also been completing preventative maintenance on the bus fleet.”

Officials in Edgewood Schools said they moved quickly to take advantage of the state-mandated shutdowns to work on the district’s first in-school health center.

“The stay at home (state) order recognizes construction as an essential function,” said John Thomas, director of business operations for Edgewood. “This has allowed the construction of our new Primary Health Solutions health center to continue at Edgewood High School.”

“While this work is taking place, we require the construction workers to comply with social distancing and safety guidelines,” said Thomas.

And, he added, “since the stay at home order was issued from the state in mid-March, all our school utilities were set to unoccupied mode as part of our energy management plan. This action includes HVAC, lights, and water in each of our buildings.”

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