Renovations to Alpena schools improve safety, learning environments

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Superintendent Dave Rabbideau looks down a hallway, explaining where the new tile meets the old tile at Ella White Elementary School. Rabbideau explained that new tile was bought in bulk to supply all the schools with new tile.

ALPENA — Keeping students safe, warm, and dry are among the primary goals of Alpena Public Schools administrators and staff, who are working hard to make sure those objectives are met.

Thanks in large part to the voters, the school district approved $33.9 million in bond money that voters approved last March.

Now, work is underway in many Alpena schools, many of the projects are complete and new equipment such as boilers, lights, and plumbing fixtures are operating as they should.

New roofs have also been added to several schools, which is important because the old ones were famous for leaks and creating safety issues.

On Tuesday, APS Superintendent Dave Rabbideau gave The News a tour of two of the schools, Ella White and Lincoln elementary schools, where much work has been completed. A few smaller tasks are ongoing, but some of the work has stalled, as contractors wait for the needed materials.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Public Schools Superintendent Dave Rabbideau, left, chats with Lincoln School Principal Courtney Fredlund while visiting the library in the school on Tuesday. There has been $7 million spent on improvements to Lincoln, Ella White, and Wilson elementary schools since a $33.9 million bond proposal was passed by the school district’s voters.

Ella White is also awaiting the arrival of new playground equipment for kids to play on during recess and lunch hours.

Rabbideau said items like energy efficient heating and lighting are important as is making sure roofs are keeping water out of the school. He said keeping students safe, warm and dry creates a more comfortable environment in the classroom, which makes teaching and learning easier.

“Things like boilers, roofs, and lights aren’t as exciting as some of the other things, but are the most critical,” he said.

The school district knows it is entrusted with the public’s money and is doing the best it can to be responsible with it.

The district purchased items like flooring in large amounts, which can be used at more than one school. Rabbideau said often items like sinks aren’t all that costly, but work and alterations to the school buildings to install them makes some projects less affordable than others.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Lincoln Elementary School fourth grade teacher Brittany Giordano utilizes a laptop computer and a projection screen during the classroom lesson on Tuesday.

“People see the cost of putting sinks in the classrooms and don’t understand that there is more to the total cost than just the sink,” Rabbideau said. “In some of the areas, we didn’t have any plumbing and had to run new lines, often through concrete, running through tunnels or having to work with asbestos.”

Little work has been done to Alpena High School, Rabbideau said, but the district will soon address needs there.

On Monday, there was a ribbon cutting at Wilson Elementary School to celebrate the improvements made there.

District administrators, school staff, and students proudly posed for pictures in front of the facility, as the ribbon was cut.

Rabbideau addressed the crowd and talked about the work and cost of the projects.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Students at Ella White utilize Chromebooks to learn while in the class. The school system has invested heavily in technology over the past several years to give kids the best opportunity to learn while at school, or at home.

“Overall we have spent about $7 million from our bond funds on work at Ella White, Lincoln, and Wilson schools and we are making good on the work made possible from the bonds,” Rabbideau said.

Now that the new heating, cooling, roofs, and plumbing systems are operational, Rabbideau said the school district should begin to enjoy lower energy bills, because the new equipment is far more efficient, which will help the school system’s bottom line for years to come.

Rabbideau said it is important that parents and others in the community see for themselves the work that has been accomplished. To make that possible, the district is rotating where its monthly school board meeting is held. Next month it will be at Lincoln School.

“It allows us to be able to highlight all of these great things that are going on,” Rabbideau said. “We want people to be able to see them for themselves and not just in pictures and on social media.”

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Superintendent Dave Rabbideau explains how the new light system at Ella White Elementary uses a technology called light-harvesting. The lights detect when and how much light is needed at a given time, and can dim or even shut off when called for.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A group of students from Wilson Elementary School showed their school spirit on Monday when they did a presentation to the board of education about why their school rocks.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Public Schools Superintendent Dave Rabbideau, left, chats with Ella White second-grade student Bryce Binkley for a moment while at school. Rabbideau said the improvements made to the local school will create a better learning environment and keep them safe, warm, and dry.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today