Commentary: B-E schools showing their age
By Don Peschel, superintendent of Brandon-Evansville School District
In my last column, I wrote about our recent work to understand the enrollment changes facing our school district and the assessment of the adequacy of our classrooms and other learning areas. In addition to these items, the school board recently reviewed additional assessments about the physical quality of our buildings.
Although there are a lot of deferred maintenance needs at both the Brandon and Evansville buildings I would like to start off by saying the district has done a great job on keeping up with current technology needs, addressing asbestos abatement as needed, making floor covering updates, maintaining outdoor athletic fields and maintaining high quality staff.
Over the last several months, Brandon-Evansville Public Schools has worked with engineers and other experts to assess whether our buildings meet modern standards for operations. With no major improvements to our schools in over 40 years, the results of these assessments come at no surprise — our buildings are showing their age. Below, I have listed a few key takeaways.
The Brandon facility is 62 years old and the Evansville facility is 101 years old. Due to their age, both schools are in need of repairs and improvements that go beyond the current scope of our maintenance budget.
When looking at needs, one of our top priorities is the safety and security of our students and staff. Community members expect and deserve a safe and secure learning environment for our students. Even though some recent upgrades have been made for secure entrances and cameras in both buildings, they still do not meet current safety standards.
To further improve the safety of our facilities for all students and community members, these buildings should be brought up to federal disability accessibility standards (ADA) to ensure that everyone using our buildings has safe access to all parts of them.
Inside our buildings, many of the improvements needed aren't seen by those that walk our halls. Outdated electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems need to be addressed as they are beyond their life expectancy, in need of constant repair and inefficient. There are also things that you might notice if you're walking our hallways — outdated doors, windows, wall coverings, bathroom fixtures and broken kitchen equipment need to be replaced.
On the exterior, our buildings are dealing with issues like water drainage problems, aging roofs, exterior envelope aging, worn windows and doors, bowing walls and general deterioration of concrete, stucco and plaster board. Improvements to playground surfaces are also needed to ensure our students remain safe during their recess time.
A copy of the last work session presentation and full facility assessment reports can be found at the dedicated strategic planning website: www.BEChargersUnited.com
So, what should we do with this information? From here, the School Board will take all of these assessments and the enrollment projections to help decide on a plan that they feel best serves our communities in scope and price. The board will work with community members to ensure that whatever plan is selected fits the needs identified in assessments as well as by community members.
Once a plan is established, the School Board will pick a date to hold a new referendum, so our communities can vote and decide whether or not this is the right plan to improve our schools. If the referendum passes, the plan would move into design phase where the school along with the design team would work through the plan details while continuing to gather community input.
The next Strategic Planning Work Session is scheduled for Monday, February 11 at 6 p.m. in the Evansville Senior Center. Please join us if you are available; we will be discussing grade configuration and doing a walk-through of the Evansville building.
As always, we want to hear your feedback. Input from community members is critical in this referendum process. I welcome all comments, questions and feedback about this process as the district narrows towards the right plan for our district. Questions and comments can be submitted on the district's dedicated website: www.BEChargersUnited.com or by phone at 320-834-4084.
As we continue in this referendum planning process, I will continue to update you on the district's progress. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you.