BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With school just about four weeks into summer vacation, Holy Trinity Catholic school officials are full steam ahead on upgrades and improvements to the school.
HTC has partnered with Mohrfeld Electric in a vast project that includes four sections of solar panels, each about 100 feet in length, just south of the old high school baseball field.
Michael Sheerin, principal of HTC school systems, is fully involved in the renovations currently underway at the HTC High School in Fort Madison and setting the school up for the next generation of students.
The biggest part of the renovations are a full overhaul of the school system’s electrical service.
Mike Mohrfeld, owner of Mohrfeld Electric, has financed the electrical upgrade, including the solar field and replacing every light and fixture in the school with high efficiency LED systems. He said he estimates the cost of the project to be between $360,000 and $380,000 when complete.
“It’s a great project to be a part of,” Mohrfeld said. “We went in and decided to replace every light and fixture and in doing so, we reduced the size of the solar field we needed to supply that power. That’s kind of the story, really. The existing system was 46,000 watts and we’ve dropped that to 14,000 watts. That’s a 65% reduction in usage. And when we did that the light output got 40 to 50% brighter. Not only did we that take that power off the grid we got a lot brighter.”
The solar panels will generate 117,000 watts or 117 kilowatts. Mohrfeld said the most the HTC system will repay on the project is $25,000/year for 10 years. He said the additional cost of the project would be an in-kind donation to the system.
“For 10 years, they’re just going to advance us what they would have paid for utilities,” Mohrfeld said. “We’re also fixing the utility price so they won’t be subjected to that Alliant rate increase that is coming.”
Sheerin said aside from the IT room that was built on the second floor several years ago it’s been more than 50 years since renovations have been done to the school and classrooms.
The room is a collaborative learning space with room for a green screen, whiteboard tables, a new Epson integrated system that allows students to use a stylus-type writing instrument to write on a purple frame projected onto a wall. Sheerin said that technology surpassed the Smartboards, but is soon to be supplanted by large interactive televisions where students can manipulate the screens by touch, very similar to screens you’d see being used on national network news programming.
A new marketing office is being built next to the entryway at the school and the current marketing office will be converted to concessions with closed loop television stations that will broadcast games as they are going on.
Sheerin said he has students working on a project to put the graduation class frames hanging on the wall into software that will allow visitors to touch the television screen and pull up their graduation class.
Sheerin commended school maintenance director Jeff Grossenkemper with keeping all the other work happening over the break organized, such as putting in new fixtures in the restrooms.
“He’s just a wonderful, wonderful addition,” Sheerin said.
In just four weeks, walls have been taken out in some classrooms and installed in others, and just entry into the building shows lots of progress. Sheerin said he even thinks he will try to get the lobby floor redone during the summer as well.
“People say, ‘You won’t have time to do all that. Well…if I’ve got four weeks…we can get a heck of a lot done in four weeks,” he said. “You see signs at other places that read, ‘Please excuse our mess’, I’d scratch that out and write Please “enjoy” our mess,” Sheerin said.
Work is also being done in the cafeteria where long tables are being taken out and the elevated area on the west side is being retrofitted with old-fashioned drop leaf tables where students can plug their computers in and set them on the table and enjoy their lunch. Other furniture is being brought in to make it feel more like a restaurant than a cafeteria, Sheerin said.
With enrollment on the rise, school officials are looking at the improvements and the new elementary building in West Point as a way to show area families the efforts that are going on. Sheerin said the new elementary campaign has surpassed $4 million and the construction can begin, as the remainder of the funds for the $6 million are raised.
“We were always the small puppy following the big puppy, but now we’re much more respected,” Sheerin said.
Shelley Sheerin, the admissions and communications director for the system, said the kindergarten class signed up at the recent kindergarten roundup is at 31 which is about 33% higher than normal.
“Our enrollment is increasing and we’re not just seeing increases at the young levels, but the older grades as well. Our biggest increases are coming in the 7th-12th grades,” she said. “Our new, young teachers – they’ve been here a year or two and they continue to stay here because they believe in what we’re doing. They’ve brought a lot to the school and have new ideas. Now we’ve got the older teachers with experience and the younger ones bringing in something new.”
Shelley Sheerin said systemwide there have been three new teachers hired for next year, with possibly a fourth teacher for math.