The list of safety upgrades ongoing at Springfield Public Schools includes nearly impossible-to-miss projects such as playground fencing and gymnasium-sized storm shelters.
Other changes, including protective film being applied to 14,000 ground-floor windows, are harder to spot.
Rick Carpenter, executive director of operations, said work to reinforce the glass so it is harder to shatter and to gain entry into a building started in late July at the high schools.
“We are right on schedule with the protective glass film,” he said.
Funding for much of the work, which started this summer, will come from the $220 million bond issue approved by voters in April.
It includes nearly $7 million for safety upgrades including security cameras, door and roof sensors, alarms and the protective film that prevents glass from shattering.
“We’ve been moving very, very quickly this summer on these safety and security projects because we know that is a high priority for us,” he said.
Another $9.9 million will pay for storm shelter gymnasiums at six elementary schools.
The work at four of the locations — Mann, Pittman, Watkins and Wilder — has already started. Similar additions are up next at Cowden and Holland.
Carpenter said site work at Mann, Pittman and Wilder is visible and includes excavation, diverting storm water runoff and moving playground equipment.
“All of our storm shelters are a 12-month project so we’re looking at end of July, first part of August, for them to be completed, weather permitting,” he said.
Safety upgrades are also embedded into the three marquee projects funded by the bond: the construction of a new middle school for Pipkin and Reed and renovation of Pershing Elementary and Middle School.
In addition to bond funds, the school board allocated money for other work as part of the 2023-24 budget.
One of the priorities was to add fencing to elementary school property, mostly around playgrounds, before the start of classes Tuesday.
“That was a safety issue where we didn’t have fencing around the playgrounds,” he said.
Update on magnet school
Carpenter said despite supply chain delays, work is progressing on the new home of the Academy of Exploration.
The school board agreed to a $2.1 million renovation of the former Fairview school on North Grant Avenue, widely known as the Hillcrest High School annex.
“The contractors and the Springfield school district has done an amazing job bringing this school back to life in the amount of time and I’m really excited to see that,” he said.
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In 2014, the academy focused on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — opened in the Discovery Center of Springfield. It spend eight years embedded there and one inside the Geek Foundation.
Carpenter said the working plan is to allow teachers and staff to move in Friday, Sept. 15 and to start school at that location as early as Monday, Sept. 18.
Currently, the program is temporarily housed at the old Sherwood building.
This location will allow the program, which serves up to 50 fifth-graders, to expand in future years to serve up to 150 students in grades 4-6.