For years, students and employees of the Northville Central School District have wanted to replace the drafty 1930s-era windows at the district’s high school.
If the state Historic Preservation Office has its way, the district may remove them but it will never get rid of the windows.
District voters in February approved a $3.86 million renovation project, part of which included replacing the old windows with 175 energy-efficient windows. The future of the project is now uncertain because of concerns raised by SHPO about the old-growth wood used for the existing window frames.
Northville Superintendent Kathy Dougherty said SHPO has informed the district that it cannot replace the roughly 20 windows on the front facade of the original part of the school and if it replaces any of the other windows it will need to store the old-growth wood frames in perpetuity in case any future owner of the building wants to remove the new windows and restore the originals.
“Our architects were totally astounded when they heard this. They had never heard anything even remotely like this,” Dougherty said.
SHPO’s review of the project was triggered during the state Department of Education’s process for providing state funding for the renovations, approximately 70 percent of the total cost.
Dougherty said Mosaic Associates, the district’s architectural firm for the project, is putting together a cost comparison study to show the state Department of Education how much it will cost Northville to keep the old windows versus replacing them with energy-efficient windows. She said saving money on heating costs was one of the central arguments the district used to sell the renovation project to the public.
“That was the whole point of doing this was to contain the heat loss in our building,” she said.
The district had hoped to replace the windows before the start of school. The flap over replacing the windows has delayed other aspects of the project, including the installation of new science labs.
Dougherty said SHPO has suggested the district purchase or lease trailers to house the window frames. She said the state won’t help reimburse the cost of storing the windows, so the district plans to put off replacing the windows until the final phase of the renovation plan so it can continue to search for a way around the SHPO regulations.
“Right now, we aren’t doing any of this. We’re going forward with researching this issue,” she said. “We don’t want our building declared a historic site. This is a functioning, operating school. It may be eligible for historic designation; we don’t intend to apply for historic designation. This is all because of the outside chance that someday it might be. They can come along and tell you your building has been named a historic site. We don’t have control of our own building.”