Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2018

Mark Schneider: Excellence Together

By Mark Schneider

At Mid-Prairie we take the condition of our facilities seriously.  We know that learning can be enhanced by classrooms and school buildings that are clean, bright, inviting, and in good repair.
At Mid-Prairie, there is no District Facilities Director to coordinate facility issues for the district.  Instead, a lead custodian is designated in each school building and he/she is responsible for coordinating the cleaning, maintenance, and repair for that building.  The lead custodians and I meet regularly during the year as a team to share knowledge and concerns and to collaboratively plan for building and district improvements.  Each summer, the lead custodians provide a report to the school board about the condition of the district’s buildings and outline recommended improvements.
As part of our work, the lead custodians and I plan summer tasks and projects to maintain and improve our facilities.   Every summer a select number of classrooms receive fresh paint.  New flooring and ceilings are installed throughout the buildings.  In addition to the more routine improvements, some past special projects have included refurbishing restrooms, replacing classroom cupboards and countertops, installing new hallway and classroom lighting, and fitting new exterior and interior doors.  Each year approximately $200,000 from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is spent on these types of improvements.
Throughout the last 13 years the district has also completed some rather large facility projects.  Some of these large projects included a new freezer for the nutrition program to store district commodities, an elevator for the high school, tuckpointing and new roofing at the middle school, new air conditioning at Kalona and Wellman Elementary Schools, paving of the high school north parking lot, and a new boiler at Kalona Elementary.  The total for these projects was approximately $2.5 million.  The funding for these projects came from the School Infrastructure Local Option fund (sales tax).
Over the years, during our custodian team meetings, the lead custodians and I discussed the need for a long-range facilities plan.  Starting in late 2008, a district-wide committee was formed to create a long-term plan.  The committee not only included the lead custodians but also parents, community members, teachers, support staff members, and administrators.  The committee met seven times during the next 18 months and presented some recommendations to the school board in June 2010.  The long-range plan included 23 items ranked in order of priority.  It also included estimated costs and a proposed timeline.  The total cost of the 23 items was approximately $23 million.
Over 10 years ago, Shive-Hattery, a Cedar Rapids engineering and architectural firm, was hired to examine all of the district’s heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) systems.  They presented their findings to the School Board in June 2003.  That report was the basis for some of the improvements made to the district HVAC systems detailed above.  The report indicated that the high school and middle school systems were nearing the end of their useful life, since the initial age of both systems was nearing 50 years old.  
Shive-Hattery was also hired to assist the 2008 Facilities Committee.  As part of their work, Shive-Hattery updated the 2003 report.  The updated work calculated the simple payback period for installing geothermal systems in the high school and middle school instead of putting in conventional systems.  The simple payback for the high school was estimated at 6.7 years and the payback at the middle school was estimated at 8.0 years.
Since 2010 when the first Facilities Committee presented the 23 items to the Mid-Prairie School Board, four items have been completed.   At the high school this includes installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, replacing the windows, and completely reconstructing the science classrooms.  At Washington Township the septic system was replaced.  The total cost for these items was $5.7 million and sales tax revenue provided the funds for the work.  The proposed bond issue will complete another eight large-ticket items on the list.  In the future, the district will continue to use sales tax and PPEL funds to complete additional items.
If passed, the April 1 bond referendum will allow the district to continue to make needed improvements to its facilities.  Please see the district’s Web site (www.mid-prairie.k12.ia.us) for more information.