$15.4M list of improvements submitted

Backlog on maintenance causes CIP to soar

Shenandoah County Public Schools has a list of $15.4 million in improvements that need to be made over the next five years.

The division’s proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan for 2019-2013, submitted to the School Board last week,  includes $2.4 million in new requests from principals. The remaining $13 million is for necessary, but stalled, projects and large purchases already requested over the years but never funded.

“We are not making up ground on projects. There is a cost to deferral,” said Barbara L. Stombock, the division’s director of finance.

The delayed maintenance problem began during the recession and the district has not come back from that yet, according to Superintendent Mark Johnston.  For several years during that time, the division was reluctant to request what was needed, he said.

The lack of funding, he noted, has been compounded in the last couple of years with some members of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors not agreeing to fund capital needs.

An example of deferred cost cited by Stombock was a catastrophic failure of a piece of HVAC equipment at Central High School that was already known to be in need of replacement.

Emergency equipment cost an additional $67,000 on top of the replacement.

The projects listed in the improvement plan include 27 that are noted as urgent.

Projects are rated as urgent, necessary and desirable after being evaluated and scored for their impact on the learning environment, health and safety issues, vehicle/equipment/ facility failures, planning time needed for replacements, level of service by measuring the immediate benefit provided, and energy efficiency and sustainability.

The biggest expenditure over the next five years is $5.4 million for transportation,  most of it to replace school buses.

The district has 57 buses and vehicles that need to be replaced incrementally during the next five years. The oldest bus is a 1996 model and another is a 1997 model.

“Older buses are more expensive to maintain,” Stombock said. “In addition to increased maintenance costs, they also are typically less fuel efficient.”

She said the division has 16 buses that are model years 2002, 2003 and 2004. The repair history for this group of buses shows that 50 percent of the engines in those buses has been replaced or had major repair work.

“The remaining buses have a strong potential for engine failure and the average cost for an engine replacement is approximately $14,000 to $16,000 per engine, without labor costs,” Stombock said.

Another important project in the improvement plan is for school building roof repairs and replacements at a total cost of $2.23 million.

There are three urgent roof replacements planned for the next year.  North Fork and Signal Knob Middle schools need to have full roof replacements. Central High School needs to have a partial roof replacement for the wing constructed in the 1990s.

Roof repairs at two more schools are scheduled for the 2019 to 2020 and the 2020 to 2021 fiscal years.

“We do experience leaks on a regular basis that require major repairs all the time. The most recent occurred just last week at North Fork Middle School,” Stombock said. “The middle school roofs are 23 to 25 years old. Major repairs to leaks not only put a strain on the operational budget, but can have a direct impact on the instructional program, student safety and school operations.”

School Board members have about a month to study the plan before voting on Dec. 14 on whether to accept the school administration recommendations. The plan will move to the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors for consideration at a later meeting.

Other projects included in the plan:

  • Replace the boilers at Ashby Lee Elementary School in the 1990s wing. Projected cost: $55,000.
  • Addition at Sandy Hook Elementary School to serve student lunches. Projected cost: $150,000.
  • Install new lights for Strasburg High School baseball and softball fields. Projected cost: $250,000
  • Football stadium bleachers at Central High School. Bleachers have sharp edges and are warping. Projected cost: $15,980