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$38.6M bond addresses wear & tear issues
The 30-year-old portable classrooms at Ripona School — designed for average use of 15 years — have extensive wear.

Ripona School is showing its age.

The 53-year-old elementary campus has aging roofs needing replacement, cracked playground asphalt including areas that pose serious tripping hazards, restrooms in need of renovation, half century plus old electrical wiring and old windows that benefit PG&E handsomely at the expense of taxpayers.

Then there is the issue of three portable classrooms that earlier this month during the deluge were soaking wet inside after the extensively patched over roofs leaked like a sieve. One classroom sustained water damage to a third of the carpet area while a series of cabinet draws under the leaks — as well as the teacher’s desk drawers — had water sitting inside them.

Andy Strickland, Ripon Unified School District Director of Maintenance & Operations credited the Herculean effort of district maintenance workers who started tackling the cleanup even before the rain had stopped from preventing serious, lasting damage that could have made the classrooms inhabitable.

The portables installed more than 30 years ago have a life expectancy of 15 years. Ripon Unified crews have done what they can to switch the life of the portables but age of the structures that make extensive use of press board shows from deteriorating wood siding and leaking roofs to other issues.

Making sure the taxpayer’s investment is protected in Ripona School is one of the reasons why the school board placed Measure I — a $38.5 million bond issue — on the Nov. 6 ballot to address modernization as well as health and safety needs at Ripona and Ripon elementary schools as well as Ripon High.

The bond, if passed by 55 percent of the voters, will cost property owners $36 more a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation. That is the assed value and not the market value. If the assessor says a home is worth $300,000 the annual tax bill increase would be $108.

Just like with a 53 year-old house, a 53-year-old school inevitable needs things like roof replacement and modernization. But the wear and tear arguable is more severe with a school when you have 350 plus kids using bathrooms on a daily basis. 

“The needs would be much higher (at Ripona) if we didn’t have the solid walls,” Strickland said of the tilt-up concrete construction with aggregate stone that over the years eliminated the need for painting or to worry about weather wear and tear.”

But it’s what is inside the wall that needs to be addressed. The 52-year-old wiring needs to be replaced. At the same time additional outlets are needed to reflect the demands of a 2018 school system as opposed to schools back in the early 1960s.

Kit Oase — who is part of the committee working to secure passage of Measure I — noted when the school was built students weren’t using Chromebooks.

At the same time wiring is being replaced, hard wire Internet access cable will be put in place to provide better, more efficient, and more muscular connectivity compared to what Wi-Fi service allows.

Bathrooms — slammed by being used by hundreds of students a day — will be completely renovated. Windows will be replaced with the latest energy efficient offerings in a bid to slash the energy bill. 

The aging playground asphalt — with extensive cracking and gaps — needs to be replaced. At the same time “lips” or separation of walkways from playground asphalt that is roughly 2 inches in most places but as high as 6 inches in some — will be eliminated. It eliminates tripping hazards but more importantly it will comply with today’s Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The three portable classrooms will be replaced with permanent classrooms. The office area and adjoining spaces will be reconfigured to maximize student spaces reflecting 21st century programming.

Security and fencing improvements will also be made to enhance student safety.

The older porcelain-style drinking fountains at Ripona School will be replaced with stainless steel drinking fountains that will also include bottle fillers to reflect how students today often carry their own water bottles with them.

“To me, Measure I is a small cost for improving our schools,” said Marge Imfeld who also serves on the bond committee. “Good schools that are well maintained have a positive effect on property values.”

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email