A consulting group is recommending that FUSD spend nearly $95 million to refurbish most of its 17 district buildings, replace two elementary schools and the portable wing at another school.
The H2 Group recently presented the findings of a yearlong assessment of the district’s schools and administration building to the FUSD board. According to the report, the average age of an FUSD building is about 47 years.
Most of the buildings have been well-maintained over the years and are in good shape for their age, said architect Paul Hartley. The district has been doing a good job at maintaining and trying to keep on top of repairs to the buildings. However, the everyday wear and tear of thousands of students, staff and teachers has taken a toll on the buildings and fixtures, carpeting, floors and other equipment have exceeded their recommended lifespan and need to be upgraded or replaced.
At least three schools, Kinsey and Killip elementary schools and the portable buildings at Mount Elden Middle School, should probably be replaced with new buildings, Hartley said. Kinsey, Killip and Mount Elden are some of the district’s oldest schools, with Kinsey being built in 1958, Killip in 1948 and Mount Elden in 1958.
The group estimates that the cost to replace the buildings at about $36,233,772. It would cost about $9,486,694 to patch the three schools up and keep them running for another few years.
However, these estimates could change based on prices for labor and materials, he said.
All three of these schools need extensive repairs, Hartley said. For example, at Kinsey and Killip, repairs need to be made to the roof, the hallways are not compliant with current Americans with Disabilities Act standards, the single-pane windows need to be replaced, the restrooms need to be refurbished, doors and door frames need to be fixed, the heating and cooling system needs to be replaced, the electrical system needs to be replaced and more. Any new work in the building would have to be done according to current building codes and meet current ADA standards. And there is the possibility of environmental hazards such as lead paint and asbestos.
The portable buildings at Mount Elden have outlived their lifespan and have gaps under the buildings that can let in pests.
The main problems noticed at nearly all of the schools by H2 were cracking parking lots and sidewalks, old heating and cooling systems, worn flooring, worn cabinets and countertops, outdated fire and security systems, the need for roof repairs and the need for upgrades to come into compliance with the current ADA requirements. H2 estimated the cost to repair these buildings at a total of about $68,013,914 including repairs, but not replacing, Killip, Kinsey and Mt. Elden’s portable buildings.
Most of the repairs are due to the age of the buildings and the everyday wear and tear that the buildings get over the years, such as rusted window frames and water damaged ceiling tiles from leaking roofs, Hartley said. A lot of the outside damage to the buildings comes from Flagstaff’s rapid freeze/thaw cycles during the winter, which causes a lot of damage to pavement, walls and roofs.
“Your climate is just hard on your facilities,” he said. Flagstaff schools face problems that other Arizona schools don’t because of the weather.
Most of these repairs can be spread out over the next several years because they aren’t a risk to the health or safety of the students, Hartley said.
Other items, like the plumbing, electrical, roofs, heating and cooling systems, haven’t been upgraded since the schools were built and need to be replaced because they’ve exceeded their life span and are no longer efficient.
H2 Engineer Jalal Avades pointed out that many of the schools only have one heating and cooling system. If that system should fail, especially in the winter, the district may have to close the school to repair or, more likely, replace the system. The plumbing and electrical systems in most of the schools should also be rebuilt or upgraded.
“Codes have changed a lot since many of these schools were built,” he said.
In order to finance the repairs and replacements, Hartley recommended the school look at asking voters to approve a bond.
“Bonds are really the only vehicle available to most school districts to fund repairs,” he said.
The state’s Schools Facilities Board can help with some projects but is unlikely to provide all of the funding the district would need to make all of the repairs necessary or fully fund the replacement of some of the schools.
The FUSD Governing Board is currently researching the idea of going to local voters with a bond and/or override issue. On Jan. 9, the board approved hiring an election consultant to do some public opinion research on the possibility of a bond and/or override on the November ballot. That consultant is expected to report back to the board in May with his results and recommendations.