Moving the Saltonstall students off-site has allowed construction to go much faster, said L’Heureux. Students would have needed to move into modular classrooms — which are no longer reimbursable by the state — if they had stayed on the Saltonstall campus, he said.
“It was the right thing to do at that location,” he said.
Collins, which has roughly 700 students, was built as the city’s high school in 1909 and was last renovated in 1992. This year’s construction project is replacing boilers, some windows and other elements that were original to the building.
“In addition to making the building weathertight, we’re making it far more energy efficient,” said L’Heureux. “The intent was to make this building usable for the next 25 to 30 years.”
The new windows — replacing old ones which had been covered with a white fiberglass coating — allow much more natural light in and open the classrooms to city views.
Gail Titus, who teaches seventh-graders in one of the renovated fourth-floor classrooms, said the windows, new flooring, paint and heating systems are the best part of her new home.
“It’s made such a difference,” she said. “The kids love it.”
Linoleum-style flooring replaces tired carpeting from the 1990s that wrinkled and bubbled up in spots. Newly painted walls and refurbished ceilings replace those stained and deteriorating from water leaks.
Before the renovation, Titus said, bits of plaster would fall off her classroom walls regularly.
In addition to being “highly energy inefficient,” Collins was prone to water leaks from windows and the roof, said L’Heureux. Both Collins and Saltonstall had an entire section of their roofs blown off in a 2010 storm.
Pieces of terra cotta molding were also known to fall off the building’s exterior. Protective scaffolding was put up from 2003 to 2012 to keep pieces from falling to the ground.