Have you ever paced up and down the aisles of a hardware store looking for just the right product to use to solve your problem at home?
Well, the Plumas Unified School District is doing just that in trying to decide what products to use in solving the many problems it has with existing school buildings.
What to do about old portable school buildings?
Students are still using some of the portable buildings that are scheduled to be demolished and replaced by permanent buildings.
The problem is, these portables won’t be replaced for approximately three years and yet those same portables need to have their roofs replaced this summer in order to make it through winter.
The cost of reroofing is approximately $19,000 per portable.
The board was therefore left with a dilemma. The board did not want to spend money on portables that would later be demolished. Yet, the district needs those portables for the next three years.
In addition, said school board member Dwight Pierson, the portables are not well insulated, wasting a lot of energy and money, and are not very conducive to learning.
Joleen Cline, fellow school board member, felt that if the board was going to spend $19,000 on a building, in the public’s eye, the district might be obligated to keep that building. It was noted that a reroofed portable would last another 10 years.
Cline said that she would prefer to see the district build a fewer number of state-of-the-art replacements for demolished portables than keep more surviving portables around.
She mentioned that steel buildings might be a more durable and cost effective option in the long-term as compared with wood framed buildings.
Pierson then asked if it would be better to have slanted roofs rather than flat roofs, as flat roofs have more of a tendency to leak than slanted roofs.
Making the right choices
All the talk about what to do about portable school buildings led into a discussion about making the right construction choices.
Several board members were concerned that making construction choices was a complicated process, but that perhaps no one with the proper knowledge and experience was overseeing that process.
Pierson asked if the district was planning to just replace repaired project items with the same materials or was the district looking at all the options, including new technologies. He told the staff, for instance, that there are insulated window covering systems on the market that cover windows when they are not needed, for instance at night or when rooms are not in use, but than can be opened during daylight hours when rooms are in use. These save both energy and money.
Pierson summarized, “We are looking for the best product for the money” and that involves knowing what all the options are that are available for every project.
Pierson then asked the district staff, “Who is writing the specifications for our Measure B projects?”
Measure B, which was passed in November 2016, is to be used to fund a backlog of repairs or replacements needed to PUSD facilities.
He and other board members suggested that hiring an independent architect or engineer to oversee construction choices might be worth the money if there was no one on staff with the expertise.
Daniel Malugani, the new PUSD Measure B contract manager, said that he and Ray Bakker, PUSD’s new supervisor of maintenance and operations, make the first cut on what construction options to select for a given project.
They then work with outside consultants, construction firms with experience working in Northern California, manufacturers, the state and many others to get input on what the final construction choices should be.
Malugani said that he and Bakker have 14 and 30 years experience, respectively, in engineering and operations.
District staff was suggesting that the district spend $230,000 of Measure B funds to reroof the bus barn. Terry Oestreich, school superintendent, said “The bus barn has been in bad shape for 15 years. The roof is literally caving in.”
Leslie Edlund, school board president, said she had no problem with the need to reroof the bus barn. However, she felt that prioritizing the repair of the bus barn, an administrative building, would send the wrong message to the public. She said the public had been told that Measure B funds would be used to repair or replace school buildings.
Oestreich later said that it was decided that school district general funds, and not Measure B funds, would be used to repair the bus barn.
Preventive maintenance plan
Pierson reiterated his belief that having a preventative maintenance plan, if closely followed, would save the district money and facilities over the long run. “It is proactive rather than reactive,” he said.
He was informed that Bakker, was currently being trained in the design and implementation of a preventative maintenance plan.
Work being completed by PUSD this summer
Oestreich and Malugani announced that the school district is replacing roofs on portable buildings, purchasing new classroom furniture, installing boundary fences and painting the interiors of school buildings this summer. Much of this work is being done using district maintenance funds.
They also announced that repairs to the Greenville gym, subject to water damage in the past, should be finished by the end of October.
Biomass heating of Quincy High
After further discussion on June 10, the school board voted to accept a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $250,000.
This money will help fund a $315,000 design of a wood biomass-fueled boiler and heat distribution system for Quincy High School. The district will be contributing $65,000 toward paying for that design.
If, after viewing the above study, the district decides to go ahead with building the biomass-fueled system, it will cost the district another $462,000 to complete the project. However, the cost of building the biomass heating system would be close to the cost of other heating systems no matter what fuel was used to fire the boilers.
Church Street School
The board has decided to save the Quincy Elementary School building on Church Street. The board has given district staff until October to come up with a plan to repair the building.
Pierson said that district staff and the board are exploring various options for using the building once it is repaired.
Pierson noted that the work on the 141-year-old building will be expensive and will take years to complete. Contractors will have to pay prevailing wages and the building will have to be meet current earthquake, disability and safety standards.
Oestreich said that if the building is not used to house students, plans will not have to go through the California Division of the State Architect.
The district will be asking a contracting firm to look at the building and estimate the scope of work that would be needed to restore the building and what that work would cost.
Plumas Charter School told PUSD in May that it will not be able to move into the new building it is hoping to build on Kelsey Lane, near Quincy High School, until June 2019, at the earliest.
The charter school was originally hoping to move out of the school district’s Pioneer School site and into an existing building somewhere else in Quincy by June 2018. They were not able to do this and so are pursuing building their own building. The permitting process is also taking longer than Taletha Washburn, PCS director, had estimated.
Pierson said that the PUSD board is just waiting for PCS to let it know what their plans are.
Oestreich said the school district has decided to turn the Pioneer School campus into a primary school learning center. The center would house preschool, kindergarten, transitional, Head Start and other early childhood programs once PCS has moved into its new home.