Needed repairs put schools in costly bind

By CLAIRE MOORMAN
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — All three Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools elementary buildings are in need of costly upgrades, according to a study by Gibraltar Design.

The Indianapolis architecture firm recently provided school board members with a report that identifies the needs of the current facilities and outlines plans to close one or more of the schools, expand them or build a new one.

Because it likely would be two or more school years before any new facility could be opened should the board pursue that option, some renovations will have to take place in the meantime to keep the existing buildings running. That means board members must decide which repairs are most pressing.

The report — discussed at a public meeting earlier this month — shows that the Fifth Street, Tenth Street and Ireland Elementary school buildings require new roofs within the next year or two. Crews recently completed work to replace a section of roof at Tenth Street School, but more work is needed. All schools also need to address wear on carpeting and wall finishes.

“At a glance from the exterior, our staff does a really good job of taking care of the facilities that we have ... but just the most simple things, like carpeting and wall coverings, those are things that really do need to be addressed,” Superintendent Tracy Lorey said. “It goes deeper than just that. It’s the age of the mechanical systems. They’re well beyond their life spans.”

All of the buildings need new temperature control systems, plumbing fixtures, fire alarms, intercoms and security cameras. Gibraltar also indicated that air handlers, windows and doors may need improvement as well, and the restrooms at Fifth and Tenth Street schools are out of date.

Gibraltar’s team noticed a lack of viable outdoor learning space at all three schools as well as the need to upgrade lot paving, outdoor lighting and ramps to meet accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The conditions of the ailing buildings were the impetus for hiring the design company to assess the feasibility and longevity of the corporation elementary schools in March.

“We have known for some time that the buildings were aging. We initially had Scott Stenftenagel and the Stenftenagel Group review some of the physical and mechanical needs of the buildings early last school year,” Lorey said. “Once he was able to complete that, we noted that it was going to be a substantial investment by the district.”

According to Gibraltar’s review, repairing the physical needs of the three buildings would cost the corporation around $28 million. Board members has asked Stenftenagel to provide a prioritized list of upgrades so they know which must be done while they make decisions about long term plans for the district.

“We don’t have the answer yet. Is the prudent use of our dollars in trying to repair the buildings that we have and get them up to the level of expected viability?” Lorey said. “Our board and the administrative staff are invested in having that public conversation about what the needs are and what the options are.”

The board will host a third public work session — set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the corporation office, 1520 St. Charles St. — to talk more about the physical needs of the existing buildings as well as the possibility of closing Fifth and Tenth Street schools, expanding Ireland Elementary School and building a new elementary.

“The community’s input and partnership in that is going to be vital,” Lorey said of the upcoming meeting. “How long do we have with these current facilities and what kind of investment will we have to make just to keep them running as we look for the solution? Those things (repairs) have to be done along the way. You cannot ignore them.”

Contact Claire Moorman at cmoorman@dcherald.com.




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