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Ongoing Weston repairs eat up time & money
Water damage has caused large chunks of the ceiling in the janitors closet to give way. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

RIPON — Lisa Fereria spends easily 15 hours a week worrying about pressing issues.

That’s understandable for an elementary school principal.

But the pressing issues have nothing to do with the quality of education at Weston Elementary School. They involve making sure the aging portables that comprise all of the classrooms on the 26-year-old campus on Stanley Drive don’t fall apart.

The ongoing maintenance needs grow each year consuming general fund money that is being diverted from supporting learning within classrooms to make sure the classrooms stay standing.

Replacing the portable classrooms at both the Weston and Colony Oak school campuses with permanent, modern classrooms with concrete instead of plywood floors will take place if Ripon Unified School District voters approve the $25.2 million bond measure dubbed Measure G on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“It’s a constant battle,” Fereria noted.

Reduced support staff due to the budget crunch has made it even more daunting. There are now just two district-wide maintenance workers left. That means making emergency repairs to deteriorating portables falls on the shoulders of Weston’s two custodians - one who works in the day and one that works at night.

That may sound do-able but they already have lengthy lists of tasks that need to take place each day so the ground and classrooms can accommodate daily activities.

“You end up having to take them off tasks they have to do daily to take care of a building issue because it is more important,” Fereria said.

An ongoing concern involves students tripping over classroom carpet that is splitting at the seams. The classrooms over the years have settled through door jambs out of whack with door frames as well as causing the plywood floors to buckle and split apart carpet. Custodians use duct tape and hot glue to make emergency repairs.

Among other things that Fereria and her staff have to contend with that other Ripon Schools - with perhaps the exception of Colony Oak - don’t have to worry about include:

• Trees growing behind narrow boarded off separations attached to portable classrooms. The trees - many that tower above the roof line, are uplifting classroom floors and causing other problems.

• Students backing up in their chairs getting caught on carpet that is separating due to floor buckling and taking spills.

• Drawers and cupboards are difficult at best to open due to classroom floors settling.

• Water damage on the ceiling panels in virtually every classroom.

• Painting many parts of the exterior of classrooms on an annual basis to avoid further deterioration of the wood as well as to try and keep the buildings looking as presentable as possible.

• Dark classrooms caused not just by older lighting but because many portables back up to each other blocking the few windows there are.

• When parts of the portables fall apart due to age, replacement parts often have to be fashioned especially for the classrooms. An example is vents along the outside walls. The wood that once held them in place has weakened so much that custodians have to deliberately oversize replacement screens just so they can find a place in the wood that will still hold screws.

Despite the wear on portables out in place in 1986 that were expected to last just 20 years, every effort has been made to keep the campus as presentable as possible.

“Our students really are good,” Fereria noted.

Besides the frequent painting, care has been taken to add roses and other landscaping where possible to break up the monotonous surfaces of the portable classrooms.

All of the classrooms - and the library area will be replaced with permanent buildings. The multi-purpose room that has electrical and sound issues will not be replaced nor will the school offices.

The bond - should it pass - will allow for a regrading of the playing fields at Weston to eliminate areas of standing water after storms and to address uneven surfaces that have caused a higher than expected number of ankle sprains - and broken ankles - among students using the fields.

Also, a separate bus loading zone will be added along Stanley Drive to significantly reduce congestion before and after school into current parking lot and drop-off zone.

The $25.3 million bond would cost the owners of a $250,000 home $20.63 a year or $8.25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.