Climbing ladders and wielding paintbrushes or hammers, Upper Arlington schools' maintenance crews are busy sprucing up buildings and making improvements before students return to class next month.

Climbing ladders and wielding paintbrushes or hammers, Upper Arlington schools' maintenance crews are busy sprucing up buildings and making improvements before students return to class next month.

A number of students and former students join the maintenance crews on paint jobs, said Chris Potts, executive director of business.

"We are proud of our youth employment summer program," he said. "We have current and former Upper Arlington students who are painting in many of our buildings. About 90 percent of our classrooms have been painted by these students and they have done lots of paintings in kitchens and throughout the school offices."

He said the program helps students "become invested" in their district.

"Some of the kids have become great painters," he said. "The program allows us to get kids involved and they have done a lot of great work this summer."

Potts said larger projects this summer will cost the district approximately $780,000 and include parking lot reconstructions, roof repairs and replacement of the chiller at Windermere Elementary.

"We reconstructed the northeast parking lot at Upper Arlington High School and rebuilt parts of the main drive, which had deteriorated, and repaved the rest of the parking lot," he said.

The parking lot reconstruction cost about $250,000, Potts said.

"We also had roof replacements at Jones Middle School and Barrington Elementary," he said. "They weren't the entire roof, but sections of the roof needed repairs. Barrington's roof cost about $220,000 and Jones' roof was $200,000."

He said the chiller at Windermere cost about $110,000.

"These are the major projects we are working on," Potts said. "They all revolve around our goals to keep all of our buildings dry, safe and secure."

Other projects included replacing the house lights in the high school auditorium.

"They were extremely outdated and needed replacing," Potts said.

He said the permanent improvement levy voters approved in 2007 provides $2 million for capital improvements each year.

The 2007 tax issue was a 6.2-mill combined operating and permanent improvement levy, with 4.2 mills approved for operating funds and the rest for capital improvements.

This year, the district will spend about $1.9 million on building improvements and repairs, Potts said.

"Prior to the passage of that levy, we were falling behind and had a lot of deferred maintenance projects," he said. "The average age of our buildings is 56 years, so without those levy funds, we would fall further behind in maintenance."

Potts said using district staff for many of the jobs has saved taxpayer dollars.

"We have a very good maintenance staff and have been able to use them to complete projects instead of contracting jobs out," he said. "Overall, we are getting a lot done this summer."