C-SD shows improvement after summer construction

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Dorchester County Public Schools Facilities’ Engineer Chris Hauge gestured toward Cambridge-South Dorchester High School’s Foxwell Field, used for soccer games. The field offers a surface of thick Bermuda grass, carefully maintained by the school’s staff.

CAMBRIDGE – When the last bell rang, signaling the start of the students’ summer vacation, the clock started ticking on a hot, busy summer for the Facilities Department, something not lost on Cambridge-South Dorchester High School Principal Dave Bromwell.
“Our community tends to lose sight of what goes on in our schools when students are not there,” Mr. Bromwell said in a written statement. “An extreme amount of work goes into motion as soon at the students walk out the door for summer vacation. It all needs to be coordinated to make everything complete when staff and students return.”
A big part of that was the replacement of heating, ventilation and cooling units at C-SD – a replacement that meant year-round staff spent the summer in front of fans, as they worked through a steamy Maryland summer without air conditioning.
Anyone passing the school early in the summer would have noticed a very tall crane poised over the roof, and maybe even spotted one of the nine new air-handling units being lowered into the “penthouse,” where the HVAC machinery lives.
These units, each about the size of two vans, are part of a $4.2-million performance contract with ABM Industries, Inc. The comprehensive deal includes not only the air handlers, but also a unified program for keeping track of the complex system throughout the school.
Efficiencies and savings
“This will also allow us to run much tighter building schedules,” Mr. Hauge said. He used the example of properly cooling the auditorium after hours when there is a full house at a show, but the rest of the building is empty – the A/C won’t need to be cranked up in the whole building, resulting in savings.
Another feature is more efficient processing of air that has already been conditioned, meaning that less is exhausted, or sent outside through vents. When a higher proportion of clean, temperate air stays inside, the school spends less keeping everyone in a comfortable environment, suitable for teaching and learning.
New controls will also allow cool air to be brought in from outside, when that choice is appropriate. Up in the penthouse, the air handlers have variable frequency drives – “Engineer talk for changing their speed,” Mr. Hauge said – so the machines run only as fast as they need to, another savings to the school.
“Air flow is so much improved,” Mr. Hauge said. “That’s going to translate to occupant comfort.”
Plans call for the $4.2 million to be paid from the county’s energy budget, with the schools recouping the cost in savings over the course of the 20-year contract.
And if it ends up costing more than that? ABM is on the hook for any overruns, Mr. Hauge said, not local taxpayers.
It won’t mean fiddling with the thermostat to save a buck, either – it’s a question of greater efficiency, not higher temperatures in the summer or lower ones in the cold months. “We’re going to run our buildings the exact same way,” Mr. Hauge said.
‘That’s Bermuda grass, not carpet’
But it’s not all bricks and mortar, and great big machines. It wouldn’t be high school without sports, important not only for the students’ health, but often their motivation to work hard in class so they qualify to join teams.
So the Facilities Department took at long look at the Vikings’ athletic sites, and came up with some improvements.
“That’s Bermuda grass, not carpet,” Mr. Hauge said only half-jokingly, as he stood at the edge of C-SD’s soccer field on Egypt Road.
Like other sports fields at Dorchester public schools, this one is blanketed by thick Bermuda turf. This variety grows horizontally, repairs gouges quickly and provides a cushion to reduce injuries from falls.
Keeping the grass – and the athletes – healthy takes some work, but savings have been introduced here as well, along with improvements.
“We used to pay people,” Energy and Projects Manager and County Athletic Director Sam Slacum said. “Now, we manage all our own fields.”
School maintenance workers have gained certification in field care, and now complete the work themselves, using some advanced pieces of machinery to get the job done.
“The Board of Education has not hesitated one second in allowing us to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and training,” Mr. Hauge said, noting that Bermuda grass requires a special mower, such as the ones used on golf courses. “They deserve a lot of credit. Without their support, none of this would happen.”
Critical mass, a life of its own
Back indoors, Mr. Hauge walked across the shimmering, NCAA-length gym floor, installed last summer. “We just had our one-year re-coat,” he said.
With last year’s work of new batting cages for the baseball and softball teams, a drop-down gym divider, basketball goals and shot clocks joining the drop-off loop re-pavement this summer, C-SD is gaining a name for itself as a top facility for high school and destination events.
“These major improvement projects were made possible by partnering with the Ironman Foundation to provide the local match for this grant-funded work,” a memo from the Facilities Department to educators said. “This recent work, along with other recent improvements has made the athletic venues at Dorchester County High Schools the envy of the entire Eastern Shore and helps support regional tournaments, playoffs and championships due to the amenities DCPS can now offer.”
“All of a sudden, this takes on a critical mass and takes on a life of its own,” Mr. Hauge said, as he spoke about the numerous tournaments, invitational meets and championships that are held at the school. In effect, these are fund-raising events – other schools or sports organizations pay to attend, bringing cash to C-SD and tourism dollars to the area.
A hot spot for sports
Teacher of the Year Sean Reincke has hosted many Bayside Conference and Region 1A championships as coach of the Vikings’ cross country teams. With the school’s attractive and authentic course, called “The Jungle,” in Egypt Road Park across from the soccer fields, and considering Dorchester’s central location on Delmarva, schools have chosen to compete at C-SD for many years.
Hearing Mr. Hauge as he went into the building, Mr. Reincke said, “We’re the hot spot of athletics now.”
Being a hot spot means taking care of details, too. Like spotting how the small lot by Foxwell Field would fill quickly before cross country meets, leaving visitors to park along the shoulder of Egypt Road.
So the lot was expanded over the summer, at a cost of $41,560 of grant money and from the operating budget. Paired with a paved path from the lot to the edge of the softball bleachers to allow easier handicapped access, the area has received a couple of useful upgrades, making the games easier and safer to attend.
And just in case it’s needed, the school is more ready than ever to serve as a shelter for local residents.
“Thanks to a partnership between Dorchester County Public Schools, County Government and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, grant funding was secured to design, procure and build a full, emergency power system for Cambridge-South Dorchester High School,” the memo said. “This new generator will support regular school district operations, but more importantly, will support C-SD HS’s role as an emergency shelter for the southern half of Dorchester County.”
“Our community would be very proud of how our tax dollars are being used to take care our facilities, which mainly range from 25-75 years old,” Mr. Bromwell said. “It is a tremendous undertaking, and the coordinating of volunteer hours by our community volunteers so we can receive several grants to enhance our facilities – it is just a great job by Dorchester County Public Schools staff.”
Editor’s note: Part III of this series will appear in next week’s Dorchester Banner.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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