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New high school – energy efficient and environmentally friendly

When Falcon School District 49 students return from fall break, they will christen the new Falcon High School, scheduled to open Oct. 22.At nearly 180,000 square feet, the new high school is almost twice the size of the old Falcon High School, said Jim Walsh, D 49’s construction manager.Walsh wrote the guide that established standards for the materials used in the construction of the school and the construction itself. “We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, and we don’t want to repeat things that don’t work,” Walsh said.He said in the past schools were expected to last about 50 years. “We designed this school to be here 100 years from now,” Walsh said.Energy efficientThe school was designed for energy efficiency. For example, instead of using concrete tilt-up construction, the exterior walls are foam-insulated concrete panels consisting of layers: 2 inches of concrete, 2 inches of foam and 2 inches of concrete.Almost all rooms have natural sources of light, through windows or skylights. Some rooms are equipped with “light shelves” that reflect even more light into the rooms and some have motion-sensing switches that turn lights off and on as needed.The school is heated by a condensing boiler, which is rated for 98 to 99 percent efficiency, Walsh said. An ice plant where water is cooled as it flows through the pipes is used to cool the smaller areas in the building. Larger spaces, such as the gymnasiums and cafeteria, use evaporative cooling, Walsh said.”The Sand Creek High School uses 85 units of energy per square foot per year,” Walsh said. “We expect the new Falcon High School to use 30 units of energy per square foot per year. Quite possibly, this will be the most energy efficient building in the state.” The buildings were designed so solar panels could be installed in the future.Environmentally friendly and secureThe school is low maintenance as well. The concrete exterior walls are impregnated with color so they will never have to be repainted. Walsh said school that are traditionally painted have to be repainted every 15 years at a cost of about $400,000.The flooring in the hallways is linoleum instead of vinyl. Henry Reitwiesner, D 49’s director of planning and construction, said linoleum is made from flax, wax and rocks, and it lasts 50 years, but a vinyl floor only lasts 15 years.The carpeting used in the rooms is made from recycled carpeting, which also has a low volatile organic compound rating, he said. “All interior paints are low VOC, too,” Walsh added. The new school is remarkably free of that “new paint” smell, he said.Grates and mats placed at the entrances will reduce the amount of dirt tracked in.Security is a No. 1 priority for all school districts. Except for specified periods during the day when students are entering and exiting the school, the side entrances are locked, and an alarm sounds if a side door is opened. “Anyone who wants to enter the building has to go through the front door and get an access badge,” Reitwiesner said. “All of the students will have badges, too.” Video cameras are placed throughout the school.For security purposes the school is divided into the “academic” half and the “public” half, he said.The academic half consists of four wings, one for each of the four grades, and the administrative offices.The public half consists of two gymnasiums, rooms dedicated to specific sports and the ROTC program, a cafeteria with seating for more than 400 students and an auditorium. “These are areas where we expect visitors to attend events at the school,” Reitwiesner said. The design makes it easier to control and monitor the actions of visitors, he added.”The cafeteria can be also used as a community center,” Reitwiesner said. Falcon groups can rent the cafeteria for after-school or weekend meetings.The move is scheduled to start Oct. 8, Walsh said.”We’ll be moving 300 desks and chairs to the new school,” said Mark Carara, the new principal of the new Falcon High School. “Some of the teachers have had books and teaching materials packed in boxes and stored in a trailer since last spring, and they are really looking forward to unpacking.”Carara has been with D 49 since 1992. He taught U.S. history at the high school level, coached basketball and football, held a position in student services at the district level and served as principal at Stetson Elementary School.”My top goal is for everyone to graduate,” Carara said. “For the 2007-2008 school year I want the school to break the record for the number of scholarships and the amount of scholarship dollars received.” He also plans to restructure the counseling department to “better accommodate” the needs of the students.The new Falcon High School was designed for 1,200 students, and 1,175 students are enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year, Carara said. A new wing that will house an additional 400 students has already been planned for the new Falcon High School.Carara said he’s talked to the juniors and seniors, and they are excited to get settled in the new building.”Having lived in the Falcon area for so long,” he said. “I know that this community deserves the new Falcon High School – and the kids deserve it, too.”

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