Chilmark School is not aging well, requires significant repairs

The Chilmark School is in need of extensive repairs. — File photo by Susan Safford

A new report on the Chilmark School, built only 14 years ago at a cost of $3.6 million, describes widespread deficiencies, building code violations, and extensive repairs needed to the roof, gutter, exterior siding windows, doors, and drainage.

The seven-page report by Noblin & Associates of Bridgewater states that performing all the repairs could cost $750,000, or even more when factoring in additional engineering and permitting costs.

The report from Michael D. Lagace, senior project manager for the consulting engineering firm, states the Chilmark School was constructed in 1999 and has been “plagued with many problems since day one.”

“Reported problems include deteriorating/improperly functioning windows and doors, improperly functioning gutters, site grading and drainage, pipes freezing in attics, heating system issues, etc.,” Mr. Lagace wrote.

On Tuesday, the Up-Island School Committee made a cursory review of the report during its regular monthly meeting and unanimously voted to appoint a subcommittee to analyze Mr. Lagace’s findings and decide what to do next.

The school committee agreed to appoint two of its own members, Robert Lionette and Roxanne Ackerman, to the subcommittee. They also agreed to appoint at least one member from each of the three towns that make up the district.

Superintendent James K. Weiss said the school district has $100,000 already set aside for possible repairs. “But the question is where do we start? Perhaps this committee can get together and help make that decision,” he said.

“The work needs to be prioritized into what needs to be done right away and what might be done a second year and a third year and down the line,” said committee member Dan Cabot of West Tisbury.

“If it’s an emergency and they need $120,000 we would have to find it,” he added.

Envelope contains bad news

In a phone interview prior to the meeting, Mr. Weiss said the report grew out of a project last summer to build a new preschool bathroom at the Chilmark School. While the bathroom was being built workers found extensive damage.

“They came to see problems with the walls, the windows, the doors,” Mr. Weiss said.” We were concerned it was a larger problem than we anticipated, so we contracted with [Noblin] to have them perform what is called a building envelope study.”

Mr. Weiss said there were several levels of repairs needed; some that must be done right away and others that can wait, at least for the time being. He said it was up to the school committee to determine which repairs were a priority.

“I think it’s safe to say that some repairs will start this summer, but I don’t know for sure,” he said. “We didn’t have the report when we were building the budget, so we didn’t put the money in [for repairs].

“Certainly I am disappointed. We don’t want to spend money on a relatively new building. On the other hand there have been problems with that building since day one.”

Leaky roof

The report finds that the roof has a low pitch and has had leaks that could lead to rot and mold.

“We are concerned that any ongoing leakage is being trapped by the insulation,” Mr. Lagace wrote. “Over time this could result in severe deterioration of the structure, not to mention the potential for organic growth.”

The report states that seams in a copper roof should have been soldered to seal them. Instead the seams were chemically sealed which makes them vulnerable to leakage.

Mr. Lagace said the roof is ineligible for soldering since a sealant was already used, and another chemical sealant is the only option to repair the roof short of total replacement.

“Chemical sealant joints are not a long-term solution. If properly installed, they have a useful life of five years. Our biggest concern, however, would be a slow leak that isn’t readily detected,” he wrote.

The report said sealing all the seams would cost around $8,910, although the ultimate fix for the roof would be a full replacement at a cost of approximately $176,490.

“Although this is quite premature, it is the only way to ensure the roof’s integrity over the long term,” Mr. Lagace wrote.

The report finds the gutters are “clearly insufficient” to direct a significant rainfall to grade, especially to the right and left of the main entrance. It would cost $40,975 to replace the existing gutters with properly sized gutters, the report said.

But replacing the existing subgrade leader system with a 10-inch line is estimated to cost $81,400, which does not include engineering, permitting or environmental impact studies, the report said.

Under the heading, “grading and drainage,” the report listed minimal clearance requirements from grade to wood siding. The site grading does not meet current codes or codes in place at the time of construction. “To bring this building to code compliance with regard to the aforementioned items would require significant regrading, involving significant landscape disruption,” the report said.

Poor windows and doors

The report found that the exterior siding and trim at the school are, for the most part, in serviceable condition. But Mr. Lagace said he was concerned with areas of known deterioration beneath the wood-framed windows. “Although the extent of the damage is at this time unclear, what is clear is that damage is occurring and needs to be stopped,” he wrote.

The report states that investigating the extent of the damage could cost $5,000 and repairs to the damaged areas could cost around $44,500. If a full-scale replacement is chosen it could cost as much as $200,000, Mr. Lagace wrote.

The report also finds that the doors and windows used in the construction of the Chilmark School were “not suited for their intended use or for the environment in which they were installed.”

The report questions why wooden doors were used instead of fiberglass ones. It also notes that properly installed windows would be placed in a metal pan, preferably copper with soldered seams, that would direct any water through the window or window opening to outside the building envelope.

Based on his investigation, Mr. Lagace concludes that metal flashing was not used in conjunction with the windows at the school.

“The possible lack of, or improper installation of, any underlayment and flashing at and around the windows at the Chilmark School have us very concerned, in that, the deterioration found associated with the existing window frames is likely affecting the building envelope,” Mr. Lagace wrote.

“Wholesale replacement of the windows is the only true way to assure that all of the surrounding materials are intact and that the building envelope is protected,” the report said.

“With regard to the doors at the school, it is the opinion of this office that their condition warrants replacement,” the report states.

The estimated cost of replacing the windows at the school is approximately $179,550, Mr. Lagace wrote, and the cost of replacing the existing doors would be $62,300.