Olentangy Valley News

Leaders scour schools for maintenance opportunities

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With no new buildings to be constructed this year, the Olentangy Local School District is acting on its goal to maintain current buildings in 2013.

At the Dec. 13 meeting of the school board, district Business Director Jeff Gordon laid out a tentative plan for $1.1 million in capital-improvements projects for the year.

In addition to $284,000 in asphalt and concrete repairs, it includes $176,800 in interior fixes and improvements for the district's 23 school buildings.

Also included are $138,000 for maintenance of heating and cooling equipment and other mechanical equipment inside buildings, as well as $190,000 in repairs to athletics facilities.

Gordon said officials began meeting with school principals and custodians in October to look for maintenance needs in and around buildings.

"We reviewed the lists the principals brought and took a tour of the buildings, inside and out, to look for items that sometimes the principals or staff may not have noticed yet," Gordon said.

He said projects that will keep schools safe and effective learning environments will take top priority in 2013. Projects that would cost more to postpone are a second priority.

"A good example is asphalt," Gordon said. "If you don't make the repairs immediately, you go through another winter and more water's gotten under there. Then what may have been a $5,000 project the next year will be a $10,000 project."

Planned improvements for building interiors include repairs to ceilings, doors, trim, lockers, restrooms and flooring.

One major project includes the installation of 400 new lockers at Liberty High School to meet the needs of that school's growing student body.

Exterior improvements will include masonry, siding, roofing, gutters and windows.

Planned projects related to athletics will include repairs to bleachers, tennis courts, tracks and sports fields.

This spring, officials will work to prioritize individual projects heading into the summer construction season, Gordon said.

Now that its growth is showing the first signs of stabilization, board member Kevin O'Brien said the district should reconsider how much it spends for yearly maintenance.

"That's something we struggle with in the (continuous improvement plan): What is the right amount to spend per square foot of brick-and-mortar buildings? What is the right level of annual investment?"

Gordon said the district will look to its neighbors for clues in the coming years.

"In Olentangy, we're fortunate. We can look at other districts around us who are 10 years ahead of us and see what they've done," he said.

It's the second year in a row that construction efforts won't be focused on new school buildings.

The 2011-12 school year marked the first year with no new school buildings since 2002. Just one year earlier, the district was busy opening two new school buildings: Heritage Elementary School and Berkshire Middle School.

With no new buildings to open last year, the district also allocated $1.1 million for capital improvements.

That included projects such as the renovation of the overcrowded cafeteria at Shanahan Middle School and a new walking path connecting Shanahan with Olentangy High School.

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