It’s been four days since the last measureable rainfall yet there are still puddles of water atop roofs at East Union High.
“The maintenance staff does their job,” noted Manteca Unified Director of Facilities & Operations Aaron Bowers as he points to roof drain after roof drain that are completely clear of debris.
But he also points to other parts of the roof that features multiple patch work. Material is cracking and starting to deteriorate on the roofs that are starting to close in on 50 years.
Across the way are even older roofs that are being replaced as part of a $14 million Measure G project that will get underway later this year. That money will also address the interiors of classrooms below that are in need of modernization as well as several original bathrooms that need to be completely gutted to address various issues as well as to make the Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
“The bones are solid,” Bowers said of the original five wings of East Union High where the walls are poured-in-place concrete. “They can last for another 50 years. . . . We just need to address issues.”
Those issues range from the need to new flooring to addressing aging electrical wiring that’s been in place since the 1966. It also includes removal of asbestos. There are also aging heating and air units nearing the end of their useful life that consume as much as four times the electricity that modern units do.
Those same issues exist in other classrooms at East Union High. The $14 million taken from the remaining balance of the $159 million Measure G bond measure isn’t enough to do that work as well. There is $49 million in work that needs to be done at East Union High simply to replace aging infrastructure and bring everything up to standard ranging from concrete and asphalt issues to HVACs and roofs. That list does not include additional facilities such as a new performing arts center that was on a wish list of a community-parent-staff-student exercise that helped established how best to spend the $14 million set aside from Measure G bond receipts.
East Union is not alone. Structural and maintenance needs to meet basis safety and operational standards such as electrical wiring for tech heavy 21st century classrooms as well as making sure the taxpayers’ investment in school facilities is protected is an issue at all 32 Manteca Unified school sites. Overall the current need to upgrade classrooms and support facilities such as gyms, locker rooms, libraries, cafeterias, and restrooms comes in at $427 million.
It is why on March 3 voters are being asked to approve the $260 million bond.
The bond requires 55 percent of votes cast to be in the affirmative to be approved. It will impose a tax of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. That means if your home has an assessed value under Proposition 13 of $300,000, you would pay an additional $180 a year in taxes.
Voters authorized Measure G in November 2014 for $159 million. Money from those bonds has updated Lincoln, Shasta, Sequoia, Lathrop, and Golden West elementary schools. Projects using the bond money are now in the process of moving forward at Manteca High, East Union High, and Sierra High as well as New Haven, Nile Garden, New Haven, and French Camp elementary schools. Design of the third phase and what schools will be addressed using what bond money remains is now underway.
It is Bowers’ task — after consulting experts who have analyzed the condition of the 2.6 million square feet of school buildings that are the equivalent of almost the footprint of 12 Manteca Target stores — not just where work is needed but the work that is the most pressing. That exercise will be used to determine what of the $427 million in needs identified in 2019 that are strictly tied into building conditions will be addressed if voters approve the $260 million bond.
To illustrate how staggering that list is consider just two items. Pressing roofing needs that come in at $51 million could eat up almost a fifth of the bond if it is approved. And something as mundane as replacing door locks on classrooms and other buildings with more secure hardware and locking systems is a $5 million cost districtwide. The lock sets alone are $400 each.
The projects being identified are also designed to reduce ongoing annual operational costs to avoid eating into classroom budgets.
The new lock sets, besides providing better security in lockdowns, reduce ongoing labor costs by replacing the FOB system. Every time an employee leaves and a new one is hired, a custodian must walk around to every door that person needs access to and scan them a card.
The same is true when it comes to cost savings involving old and aging HVAC units. New units would reduce the amount of electricity by as much as 75 percent with a corresponding savings in spending for electricity.
Some may ask why the school district hasn’t addressed the facility issues as the years have unfolded.
They actually have — at least as far as they could with available money. It is why the district has a number of portable classrooms that have a rated life expectancy of 20 years that are now closing on — and in some cases — exceeding 40 years. Those portables that still have “good bones” are among work targeted in Measure R to extend their life even farther.
The alternative — that is much less affordable – is to replace portables with permanent classrooms that can be built for as “low” as $125,000 apiece if eight or more are built in one spot at the same time.
The district sets aside 5 percent of its annual general fund for maintenance as opposed to the 3 percent the State of California recommends. About 85 percent of the $1.7 million goes to cover the cost of staff to do maintenance work. The remaining $500,000 plus is what is left to pay for materials or if they need to hire specialized help with items such as plumbing.
That money is spread across 32 school sites that get heavy use from nearly 27,000 students and staff every day.
Bowers noted community members surveyed by the district when it was weighing whether to prepare a bond measure stressed they wanted emphasis on “protecting what we have” so the district’s $1 billion plus investment in facilities won’t be compromised and require significantly more expensive replacement structures.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, firstname.lastname@example.org