Cambridge City Schools have been working on a list of improvements designed to improve students’ learning experiences and environment.
Work is underway in elementary and middle schools to replace playground equipment. The equipment is over 20 years old and some comes from other elementary schools according to John Charlton, director of communications at Cambridge City Schools.
“There were concerns about insurance and liability and we needed to make improvements anyway,” Charlton said. “Once we started looking at it, it was more affordable and safer to replace it and fit a new one.”
Once the new play areas are installed, new wood chips will be placed around all equipment for safety.
The cost of playgrounds is $140,000 for primary and $158,000 for intermediate plus installation cost. Funds for this project came from the Continuous Improvement Fund.
In middle school and kindergarten, five classrooms will be replaced with tiled floors at a cost of $20,000, paid for by the Permanent Improvement Fund.
With the completion of a new concrete patio just outside the cafeteria, middle school students will have space for additional outdoor activities and can eat lunch outside when the weather permits.
Charlton says the addition of picnic tables and outdoor dining space will allow students to spread out more. The cost of the project was $4,000 for materials and was paid from the Continuous Improvement Fund.
Also new in middle and high school are new pavilions to be used as an outdoor learning space where classes can go to work outside. The pavilions cost $23,000 each and were funded by a School Quality Improvement Grant. The concrete work for the pavilions and outdoor patio was done by the district team to be more cost effective.
In high school, the basketball/volleyball locker rooms are almost complete and should be finished before the start of the season. The high school and McFarland Stadium locker room renovations cost $75,000 and were funded entirely by anonymous donors.
Other improvements, which will not be noticed as much by students, include replacement of HVAC controls and eight water-source heat pumps, and new shingle roofs at the administration office, elementary and middle schools and a flat roof in college. The cost of the roof is $1.45 million for the shingles and an additional $1.45 million for the apartment. The HVAC, which involves the entire district building, cost $318 million. These three projects were funded by the COVID-19 relief fund. Additional funding for the HVAC came from a $200,000 federal energy grant.
Charlton notes that although these are facility projects, they will improve the learning environment for students. These improvements will make it easier to control the temperature in classrooms so that students are comfortable.
To McFarland Stadiumimprovements include new grass on the pitch, track being resealed and striped, restoration of bleachers and steel, new football goals, football sleds, chutes, game clocks, benches.
The new football locker rooms will house a baseball batting cage that drops from the ceiling for use during football’s off months.
In addition to upgrades/improvements to school buildings, the foundation stone was new district transportation facility which should be ready for use by March.
The installation that will replace the current one. at Pine Field, 830 N 10th St., is being built on five acres of undeveloped land located on Wills Creek Valley Drive between Mayor Estates and the Cambridge Care and Rehabilitation Center.
Plans for the facility include an 8,500 square foot garage with parking for 14 buses, four vans and 22 employee vehicles. The cost of the installation is $2.95 million and is being paid for using COVID-19 relief funds.
Superintendent Dan Coffman has previously said the new facility will significantly reduce bus traffic around Cambridge City Park, reduce the time students spend on a bus and cut costs by reducing bus mileage as the facility is closer schools.
In addition to building improvements, the district is investing $1.5 million in COVID relief funds over the next three years in a new program for all schools in the district.
“With these COVID Relief dollars, we have the opportunity to update our program in a number of areas,” said Dave Caldwell, Chief Commercial Officer. “I don’t think we’ve bought a program for a long time because of the way things have gone.”
New math and phonics curricula have been introduced in primary school and they are in the process of selecting a new reading and writing curriculum. Students in grades 6 through 12 will also have a new curriculum, and middle and high school students will have a new ELA/Reading curriculum and a new vocabulary curriculum.
Additionally, middle and high school science and social studies departments are looking for new programs to update the curriculum.
Charlton said it’s important to note that no money for any of the projects came out of the district’s general fund. Funds used for all projects came from the Permanent Improvement Fund which can only be used on assets that will last five years or more, COVID-19 relief or improvement funds, grants and donations.
Caldwell noted that the COVID-19 relief and enhancement money can only be used for certain things and is a one-time money that typically wouldn’t be in the general fund. It’s one-time money they get the opportunity, so do cool things with the students in the district.