Vigo high schools get bathrooms refresh and other updates

·4 min read

May 1—The Vigo County School Corp. has begun some high school facility improvements that include bathroom upgrades, terrazzo floor cleaning and installation of water bottle filling stations at fountains.

District officials provided an update Monday at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, although improvements will be taking place at all three high schools.

"We want to make sure we are creating a better environment for our students and staff," said Tom Balitewicz, VCSC interim superintendent.

Bathrooms, in particular, have been a major source of concern on the part of students, staff and parents.

John Newport, chief operating officer over facilities, outlined several improvements underway.

Bathroom ceilings are being painted, and new lighting will be installed that will brighten restrooms.

Floors are being deep steam-cleaned, re-grouted and sealed with enamel, creating a marked difference between bathrooms that have been steam-cleaned and those that haven't.

Other steps will include installation of air fresheners in bathrooms, and exhaust fans on roofs will be repaired if they aren't working.

The district is in the midst of evaluating all fixtures (toilets, urinals and sinks) to make sure they are in good working order, and those that don't work will be replaced.

"The goal is by August to have all of this completed" in time for the next school year, Newport said.

The condition of the restrooms is not a custodial cleaning or a maintenance issue, Newport said. "It's an old building issue." North and South opened in 1971 and West Vigo in 1960.

"Fifty-year-old toilets are bound to break," he said, and those bathrooms have been used by large numbers of students each school day for decades.

While the upgrades will take place at all three high schools, the facilities are currently at different stages, Newport said.

"We are looking at areas of need first," he said. "We'll always try to spend the same amounts of money through the buildings but it might be different priorities and projects based on who needs it more and in what area."

Terrazzo floors receive a deep cleaning, and that work has already occurred at West Vigo's front hallway. It will be a five-year project, completed in different areas of the schools over that time.

In total, 56 student and staff restrooms at the three high schools will benefit from the "refresh."

The scope of work spans multiple trades, Newport said.

In addition to the flooring work:

* VCSC plumbers are working bathroom fixtures and water fountains;

* District electricians will be wiring lights soon;

* HVAC technicians are working on exhaust fans;

* District painters have painted ceilings at North and South and restroom walls and ceilings at West.

Another much welcomed improvement is the addition of water bottle filling stations at fountains.

"We'll have nine water bottle filling stations at North and South and eight at West Vigo when the project is done," Newport said.

One installed at North about four weeks ago had already been used more than 1,000 times.

Among students welcoming the changes is Ezra Gatrell, a North senior and student council president.

For him, the best part is the addition of the water bottle filling stations.

"It allows us to get good, filtered water throughout the school," Gatrell said.

Also by the new school year, a new security camera system will be in place at the high schools, Balitewicz said. "That's going to be a nice added security feature for our schools," he said.

The high school updates are a first step, officials say, but substantial infrastructure work must still be addressed.

Schmidt Associates was hired in March to do a professional services study related to HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) and plumbing work at North, South and West Vigo highs schools and West Vigo Middle School.

Once the study is completed, Schmidt will make its recommendation on a plan to address HVAC and plumbing in those facilities; the district plans to use $18 million in federal ESSER funding and $5 million in general obligation bonds.

Schmidt "will have a laundry list of things that need to be accomplished," Balitewicz said. "Hopefully we'll make some really good progress with the $23 million."

He noted that with outside temperatures getting warmer, some of the classrooms have gotten very hot. It's important to address those heating/cooling problems "to optimize the learning environment," Balitewicz he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue