Archive for Thursday, August 7, 2003

District takes new look at facilities repair plan

August 7, 2003

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Disintegrating masonry at Lawrence High School wasn't enough to convince voters in April to pass a bond issue for school renovation and construction.

But that building problem and others like it have officials worried about deferred repairs at the school district's 22 schools.

The failed $59 million bond proposal would have provided $300,000 to $400,000 to fix the deteriorating LHS walls.

"It's catching up with us," Tom Bracciano, division director of facilities and operations, said Wednesday during a tour at LHS. "We've got a lot of infrastructure projects."

The Lawrence school board has asked Bracciano to rework the district's five-year facility improvement plan, a prioritized list of projects, big and small, that could to be tackled by 2008.

Here's a sample:

  • West Junior High School, 2700 Harvard Road -- Deteriorating pipes turn water brown at some faucets. The bond earmarked $3.2 million for interior renovation at the school, including $250,000 for plumbing renovations.
  • Because of the failed bond issue, Lawrence school officials are now
discussing where the district should focus money to rehabilitate
facilities. Tom Bracciano, the district's director of facilities
and operations, says the plan may be to spend more money in fewer
places. Bracciano was at Lawrence High School Wednesday reviewing
some structural damage to exterior walls, visible at center.

    Because of the failed bond issue, Lawrence school officials are now discussing where the district should focus money to rehabilitate facilities. Tom Bracciano, the district's director of facilities and operations, says the plan may be to spend more money in fewer places. Bracciano was at Lawrence High School Wednesday reviewing some structural damage to exterior walls, visible at center.

  • Cordley School, 1837 Vt. -- A priority is replacement of inefficient windows. The bond would have financed $4.6 million for Cordley additions and renovations.

Leni Salkind, the board's vice president, said failure of the bond proposal in April and closure of three elementary schools in May made recasting the district's facility improvement plan necessary.

"We need to do something like that," she said. "We don't have the bond issue to take care of a lot of it. We need to think what is on that list and take care of things that really need to be done."

Bracciano said the school board and administrators would begin discussing a "philosophical" change in the district's approach to renovating schools.

Instead of spending the district's $1 million annual budget for infrastructure upgrades on numerous low-cost projects, the district could begin funneling the budget to fewer but more expensive projects.



"We've got some major issues we wanted to take care of with the bond issue that are going to be moved up," Bracciano said.

Bracciano said the district was unlikely to invest significant amounts of its capital-outlay budget at South Junior High School and Lawrence Alternative High School.

The priority at these schools would be to maintain a safe academic environment, he said. It doesn't make sense to pour large sums of money into buildings that might be replaced, as is the case of the junior high, or meaningfully remodeled, which is possible at the alternative school, he said.

He said the district would continue to set aside $2 million to $3 million annually for routine maintenance.

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