Maintenance a financial challenge for Wabaunsee School District

A hole remains open in the ceiling of Mr. Praeger’s classroom on the third floor of WHS. A rolling trash can is brought in whenever it rains. The roof is one of many maintenance challenges facing USD 329.

USD considering options to maintain buildings

USD 329 faces maintenance challenges and is considering an extension of a bond issue to pay for solutions.

“The building was built in 1937,” WHS custodian Tim Songs said, “so it’s always challenging when there’s a problem.”

“The biggest problem is the roof,” maintenance manager Freddie Johnson said. The clay tiles high school roof leak, and the underlayer becomes saturated with water and splits open. This can be seen in the form of brown water stains on the ceiling tiles, or in more extreme cases such as the hole in the ceiling of one teacher’s room.

“To fix it right,” Johnson said, “we could take the clay tile off and replace it with tin. That would alleviate a lot of problems.”

The old high school building is not on the Register of Historic Kansas Places, so there are no restrictions on what can be done to the building. “The boiler system will have to be replaced,” Johnson said.

While some of the problems are cosmetic, others affect the way the building is used. For instance, the heating system in the high school auditorium has been broken for several years. A school assembly Wednesday was moved to the gym because it would be too cold to have students in the auditorium.

Funding for maintenance is provided by the capital outlay budget, which also provides for salaries of maintenance and custodial staff, transportation, and performance uniforms. The capital outlay budget would pay for maintenance repairs such as a toilet going out.

But for certain large expenditures like the roof or boiler system, capital outlay is insufficient. “To replace the roof at the high school,” superintendent Brad Starnes said, “it would take around $160,000.”

Another large expense is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The systems installed with the last bond issue have outlived their life expectancy. To help pay for these things, the board is considering extending a bond issue for another seven years, which would raise about $2-3 million without raising taxes from the current level.

The district also faces a decision about Paxico Middle School. Parts of the building and facilities need to be repaired, so the board is considering the district’s need for the building. The board has also been looking into studies that show that when a student transitions into another building, there is a drop in academic success before it rises back up. Potential plans would keep fifth grade students in elementary school and move sixth grade students to the junior high.

It is an ongoing process to look for solutions to maintenance problems, and several options are under consideration.

“We don’t want to put money into something that we won’t have in the future,” Starnes said.

— Eleanor Badeker, @ellybadeker

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