By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — New energy efficient windows at Whittier Middle School have not only created a warmer school, but a brighter one too.
Workers have been replacing windows and doors at Whittier Middle and Consentino schools, the last of almost $5 million in repairs being made to four city schools this year.
Whittier Principal Toni Donais said 20 classrooms received new energy efficient windows that give students a clearer view to the outdoors and open inward instead of outward, which should help avoid the kinds of injuries that have happened in the past.
“A lot of the classroom windows over the years were broken and replaced with Plexiglass, which yellowed and got scratched over time to where you could not see out,” Donais said. “Some you could tilt up and out, and in the past children have been hurt when running by. The new ones pull in, which is a good safety feature.”
Windows in Whittier’s cafeteria were replaced as were the overhead windows in the building’s gymnasium, Donais said. Similar work has been taking place at Consentino, officials said.
“With the new windows, we now turn off the boiler in the morning as it’s so much warmer than before,” Donais said. “During the day it’s so bright in the cafeteria we don’t turn on the lights. Before you couldn’t see so you had to.”
About $3.5 million for school building improvements is from the state’s Green Repair energy repair program. Haverhill is kicking in $1.4 million, Mayor James Fiorentini said. A portion of the city’s contribution was raised by selling property and the rest is coming from the mayor’s capital improvements budget, which was approved by the City Council last year.
In the fall, Tilton Elementary School received a new roof and Walnut Square Elementary School got a new roof and heating and hot-water systems. The money was also used to install new boilers at Consentino.
Whittier received a new roof five years ago, and with the addition of new windows the school is warmer and brighter than ever.
“We’re just about through the entire building and we’re on the last room, the art room,” Donais said.
New windows were also installed in Whittier’s two computer labs, music room, library, front offices and gymnasium.
“They are stunning looking and change the whole appearance of the building,” Donais said. “Kids say, this school looks so modern now and how bright it is.”
Along with new windows, the school is getting new window shades.
“In some rooms the old shades didn’t work,” Donais said.
New classroom doors are expected to be installed within a few weeks and will replace doors that are worn out.
Both the boys and girls locker rooms got a freshening up too. The girls locker room was painted bright pink while the boys locker room was painted in Whittier green.
Donais said 35 students and parents emptied the library of books during February school vacation. They also tore up the old carpeting and replaced it with new carpeting paid for through a student fundraiser. The old wooden shelving was replaced with metal shelving donated by Tufts University, Donais said.
“The exciting thing for students is the old library tables and chairs were replaced by 30 bean bag chairs,” Donais said. “Students used to sit around the tables and read and it was hard to concentrate. We wanted it to be more comfortable for them to read and it has worked out well.”
“I’ve never seen the kids so excited about going to the library to read,” Donais said.
Teachers took the old library tables for use in their classrooms.
“They scooped those right up,” Donais said.
The project to improve school buildings was originally going to include new roofs and windows at Hunking and Greenleaf schools in Bradford, but those buildings were left alone after serious problems were detected with Hunking’s foundation last year. The city plans to build a replacement school for Hunking within the next five years and the new building is expected to be large enough to accommodate students who currently attend nearby Greenleaf elementary. Greeleaf also has serious structural problems which threaten its long-term viability, officials said.
“Our schools are part of my administration’s capital plan and we are fortunate to receive 71.91 percent reimbursement from the state for our school projects,” Fiorentini said.
The mayor said repairs at Whittier and Consentino are scheduled to be finished by next month. The Green Repair grants are paid for with $300 million in federal stimulus funding.