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Eden's three schools are getting a $7.1 million makeover, but not the kind that will be highly visible.

The combined project is a blend of $4.3 million in energy-savings improvements and $2.8 million in technology upgrades. Superintendent Robert Zimmerman said the projects were necessary and will result in savings. State aid is paying for the bulk of the projects, with energy savings paying off the local share of the bond.

"Overall, it will be cost-effective for the district forever," Zimmerman said during a tour of the buildings this week.

The core of the energy savings includes replacing all classroom lighting, changing from electric to gas heat for classrooms and offices of the high school and, among other technology-related improvements, major heating upgrades in the elementary school and Grover L. Priess School. New windows and doors also are featured.

The district expects to save at least $70,000 per year by replacing old equipment and overhauling heating systems.

Contractors are working on the elementary school, which until now used a steam heat system dating to 1939. Contractors are also busy making improvements at the Priess School, built in 1956, and the Junior-Senior High School, built in 1969.

David Martin, the district's superintendent of buildings and grounds, noted the work was overdue.

"We have basically maintained, and it was getting very expensive," he said.

Meanwhile, the district still awaits state approval on the technology component of the upgrades.

Heating contractors, who have an Oct. 1 deadline to complete work at the elementary school, are racing against time and Jack Frost.

"If they have to bring in electric heaters until (the new equipment arrives), they will," Martin said.

Steam will continue to heat the Priess School, but two new boilers are being put in place.

At the high school, electric heating units are being retrofitted with hot-water coils in each of the classrooms. That project is nearing completion.

Computers based at the high school will monitor temperatures and control equipment at each of the schools.

"It's high-tech and very cost-effective," Martin said.

One of the greatest challenges of the projects is preserving the architectural integrity of the elementary school, where classroom ceilings were lowered this summer by 2 to 3 feet to about 10 feet.

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