HAMPDEN, Maine — Inconsistent heating problems at the new Hampden Academy seem to be a thing of the past now that adjustments have been made to the school’s cutting-edge geothermal heating and cooling system.
“The recalibration needed on the heating system is almost 100 percent complete and effective now,” said Emil Genest, SAD 22 assistant superintendent for business. “There is still one area we need to work on, and that’s in the alternative education area.”
That area of the school — near the first floor math/technology wing — is located all the way in the back on the right side as you walk in the front entrance.
Several students and faculty members have voiced concerns about “cold spots” in the school, primarily during the coldest months of December, January and February, but things weren’t so frigid that anyone had to wear parkas to class.
“There were some comments about it being colder, but it wasn’t the entire school, it was just certain zones, and it was never like it was 40 degrees or anything like that,” said Ben Johnson, a Latin teacher who has been an SAD 22 high school faculty member for 12 years. “It was more like a 10-degree difference at most.”
Johnson’s classroom is on the second floor and the only one facing east, toward the athletic complex.
“At the old school, it could get down to the 50s whenever the heating system broke and we’d have to move into another classroom,” he said.
Tanya Pereira, a parent of a fourth-grader in the SAD 22 school system and member of the school board of directors, said it’s not surprising that the new school has had a break-in period, like any other new facility employing new technology.
“They briefed us on the building committee,” Pereira said. “The staff and faculty did a good job monitoring it, and as with any new building project, there are hot and cold spots, and they had to adjust things accordingly.”
Johnson said everything seems to be the way it should be now.
“Especially the last couple months, there’s been no issues,” he said. “Well, I mean, it feels normal. That’s probably the best way to put it.”
Pereira doesn’t expect to have similar issues with the air conditioning systems once the warm weather arrives.
“We do have more experience with the cooling system since the building was finished last summer and we had staff setting up in August,” she said. “I expect we’ll have fewer issues with that in the coming months.”
Another early problem involved 7- to 8-foot oval acoustical tiles falling from the school’s performing arts center ceiling due to improper installation. All of the tiles were removed and will be reinstalled.
“We’re currently formulating an installation plan with the subcontractor [Advanced Ceiling Tiles of Manchester, N.H.] and plan to have those tiles replaced this summer, which would be the best time since they need to have a mechanical lift in there,” Genest said.