When eight Columbia County schools open in the fall, renovations will have them shining about $2.3 million brighter.
The school system is using the summer months to improve building conditions by painting, tiling, roofing and adding space to several middle and elementary schools.
"The whole key is just maintenance and maintaining the facilities," said Tim Beatty, director of buildings and grounds for Columbia County schools. "I think if you can do that it's just like your home or your automobile, you're going to get prolonged life out of them."
Before classes begin Aug. 18, the school system will have completed 11 projects at five elementary and three middle schools.
The biggest project is a 10-classroom addition at Grovetown Elementary costing $1.2 million. The project includes improvements to the elementary school's kitchen and lunchroom. The school system also will spend $43,000 to install new tile and paint in the older portion of the school.
While Grovetown Elementary is getting new classroom space, other elementary schools will be getting temporary classroom space to accommodate growth and provide for smaller class sizes. Twenty-five portable classrooms have been moved among schools at a cost of $3,000 each.
Westmont Elementary received five portables to add to its current two, while Riverside and Bel Air elementaries both received four portables to bring their totals to six each. Brookwood and South Columbia elementaries received three portables. Evans Elementary and Harlem Middle both received two, and Martinez Elementary received one portable classroom.
Another big ticket item for the school system this summer is a $500,000 roof at Evans Middle School. The new roof replaces several patch jobs during the years to prevent leaking. But, the middle school has continued to have problems with leaks during heavy rains, and the multiple layers of roofing have made it difficult to identify where the leaks originate.
Martinez Elementary -- built in 1962 -- is getting a $197,000 face lift. Work crews have been removing old windows and installing new ones to provide more insulation and better security. The front of the school will be refurbished with a brick facade.
And at Columbia Middle, an environmental study has been conducted to check air quality at the school. The study, done by GSC Environmental Laboratories, measured radon levels, carbon dioxide and mold.
It uncovered eight areas that have mold and require cleaning. The cost of cleaning the mold will be about $7,000, Mr. Beatty said. Roof leaks have plagued the building, which dates back to 1956, and new carpet and tile also is being installed at a cost of $112,000.
Associate Superintendent Charles Nagle said the school system also has added ventilation to two areas at Columbia Middle -- a crawl space and a janitor's closet -- where radon levels were higher than normally expected, but were not high enough to cause health concerns.
"The only thing you can do for that is ventilation," Mr. Nagle said.
Both Bel Air Elementary and North Columbia Elementary will get some new paint and a wing at Harlem Middle will get a new roof. A paving project is also under way at North Harlem Elementary.
Although Columbia County always has projects during the summer, this vacation season brought more than usual, Mr. Beatty said.
"We know we were biting off a large portion to get quickly turned around in the summer, but it's going to be great when school starts," he said. "That's the key right there."
Columbia County schools summer projects:
Martinez Elementary: face lift, $197,000
Columbia Middle: carpet and tile, $112,000; mold cleaning, $7,000
Evans Middle: carpet and tile, $112,000; roof, $500,000
North Harlem Elementary: paving, $5,600
Grovetown Elementary: 10-room addition with kitchen and cafeteria improvements, $1.2 million; painting and tile for older portion, $43,000
Harlem Middle: roofing on one wing, $23,000
Bel Air Elementary: painting inside entire building, $87,000
North Columbia Elementary: painting older wing, $19,200
Reach Peggy Ussery at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, .