Among projects being funded at Brunswick Junior High School this year is the enclosure of two kilns beside the arts space. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick Junior High School was already considered old when Jim Grant attended 40 years ago.

Built in 1959 at the same time as the neighboring Coffin elementary school, the junior high “needs a lot of attention,” the Brunswick School Board chairman said. “And although all the safety needs have been taken care of, that’s not enough. It needs to be a better space.”

The district, which is continuing to tackle improvements gradually, is receiving nearly $161,000 in revolving renovation funds from the state, according to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski. The state only requires a portion to be repaid, based on the number of students that receive free and reduced lunch. This year’s forgiveness rate is nearly 38%.

Brunswick Junior High School, the oldest section of which was built in 1959, is most in need of attention among the town’s schools. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

The new funds will go in part to increase safety around two art room kilns, which the state fire marshal’s office in 2015 considered a fire hazard. The kilns will be secured in a fire-rated enclosure with a new ventilation system, as opposed to half walls in place now.

Floor tiles containing asbestos on the main cafeteria floor will be removed and new tiling installed. The material is not hazardous as long as it remains contained, but cracking in the tile is enough of a concern to trigger its abatement, as has already been done in a secondary cafeteria room, said Scott Smith, the district’s director of facilities, grounds and food service.

A stairway will receive new code-compliant rails and new exit signs will be installed in the locker rooms.

School projects for which state funding wasn’t granted include restructuring a vestibule to provide better security, repairing a sinking floor caused by the building settling over time, and replacing the public address system, Perzanoski said.

The district also includes capital projects for the school in its annual budget. Fiscal year 2020 expenditures include continued roof repair ($134,000), flooring replacement ($40,000) and window repairs ($65,000), along with door replacements, bathroom upgrades, steel beam painting and ramp improvements, the superintendent said. Next year’s budget is still being developed.

“This is like any other 60-year-old building,” Smith said. “It needs maintenance, it needs work, today’s classrooms are different than the classrooms were 60 years ago. But I wouldn’t call it a lost cause. If money wasn’t an issue, sure, I’d love to have a new building, but that’s not a reality.”

“I think we’re doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Grant said, adding that the School Board is well aware of the school’s many issues and has asked the state for financial aid in building a new one. “… These are expensive repairs.”

The district applied for state funding in 2017 to replace the junior high, but was rated 44th among 79 projects. The Coffin school also failed to receive state funding for replacement; the Kate Furbish Elementary School, which will replace the Coffin school when it opens this year, is being funded locally through a $28 million bond.

“It was sort of a tossup between (the junior high) and the elementary school,” and Coffin’s lack of space made that the higher priority, Smith said.

An architectural firm in 2015 presented a $9 million plan for renovating both the junior high and Coffin schools; a recent number for the junior high isn’t available.

“Once it was approved to build the new elementary school, the thought of rebuilding (the junior high) sort of went away,” Smith said.

So, for the time being, improvements are made each year as money allows.

Less than half of the 94,000-square-foot school was protected by sprinklers in 2015; the entire building now has a system, Smith said. The school’s fire alarm system has been updated, and cosmetic improvements like new carpeting and paint have been applied in recent years.

The district spent $408,000 in 2009 and $454,000 in 2016 to raise the school’s air quality to national standards, according to the Times Record, and this spring replaced a steam pipe. Many windows have also been replaced in recent years.

Additions to the building were constructed in 1966, 1976 and 1983, the latter after a fire. It’s Brunswick’s school in greatest need of attention, with Coffin being replaced, the Harriet Beecher Stowe elementary school built within the past decade and the 25-year-old high school still considered “new,” Smith said.

The school undergoes fire, elevator and asbestos inspections each year, “so I have absolutely no concerns about the safety in this building,” he noted. “It’s not the most beautiful place ever, but we’re working on that.”

Asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyl, another toxic substance, are still present in the building’s exterior caulking. The exterior brick also needs restoration, and a section of the roof is improved each year; about a quarter of the roof work remains to be accomplished, Smith said. Window and plumbing replacements are part of an ongoing maintenance plan.

Depending on funds available, “I think realistically over the next three or four years we can bite off most of the bigger issues that need to be fixed,” Smith said.

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