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D161 sees progress on Western Avenue, Flossmoor Hills projects

Alumni may soon want to make a return trip to Western Avenue Elementary School.

“To experience Western with central air — we have been talking about that for so long,” said Michelle Hoereth, president of Flossmoor School District 161’s Board of Education.

Superintendent Dana Smith noted it “feels completely different” to walk the halls of Western Avenue on a hot day.

The comments came during a construction update provided by Associate Superintendent Frances LaBella on Monday, Aug. 31, at a special meeting of the school board. 

A written report submitted to the board by LaBella and Scott Stachacz, director of buildings and grounds, focused on construction that is ongoing at both Western Avenue and Flossmoor Hills Elementary Schools as part of the district’s resource equity goal.

The schools will have air conditioning and heating units which serve each classroom. These units are called unit ventilators abbreviated to univents. At Western Avenue and Flossmoor Hills, univents have been installed, according to the report, and air conditioning chillers have been started, and control work has begun. 
LaBella said technicians from the HVAC company Trane have fixed the majority of the univent issues. One was still not running as of Aug. 31, and there were other minor issues to address, such as rattling noises and dented units.

“We’re working on testing and balancing and getting the controls under control,” LaBella told the board. “But it’s a world of difference. We’re in good shape.”

LaBella noted Trane is a subcontractor of a subcontractor, but the district has withheld roughly $100,000 to make sure the issues have been addressed before releasing money for the work.

Board Member David Linnear asked if the district was saving any money on utility bills without students present at this stage. LaBella said with teachers still on-site, that means the air-conditioning is still going, the lights are still on and the computers are still running.

“Right now, we have teachers in almost every classroom, so not a lot has changed,” she said.

“You might save on a water bill, but that’s about it,” board member Christina Vlietstra added.

Stachacz noted he has adjusted the occupancy schedule for the buildings, so the systems are not running as often.

The report also notes all four Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) labs have been completed, with furniture being delivered and installed this week. The labs are in Flossmoor Hills, Heather Hill, Serena Hills and Western Avenue schools.

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