The Hays USD 489 school board heard some grim news about the district’s facilities at its Monday night work study session, which included a tour of Wilson Elementary School highlighting its space issues.
Rusty Lindsay, director of buildings and grounds, told the board members that several buildings are needing some large-cost improvements.
“I wanted to set the stage tonight that I’m going to have to switch course a little bit and start looking at some of those buildings," he said. "I’m not sure where we’re at as far as a bond, but we’re running out of time and we’re going to have to move forward.
“Capital outlay will not get it fixed. It’s going to take something substantial. That doesn’t mean I’m not still not going to try to make it work. I’m still hoping to put some money back into special funds to look at some HVAC in the buildings and take on some bigger projects."
Lindsay named O’Loughlin Elementary School as his highest priority. In a triage report Lindsay prepared for the board earlier this year, he listed the roof and HVAC among the 57-year-old building’s systems in poor shape and needing replacement.
The district’s transportation department shop is another priority.
“We’ve been fighting leaks on it ever since I’ve been here. It’s to the point where it’s going to fail if we don’t do something with it,” he said.
Asbestos abatement for the structure will likely increase costs associated with the building, he said.
Lindsay said he hopes to bring a revised triage plan and budget to the board in January.
Before hearing presentations from Lindsay and Russ Henningsen, director of transportation services, Anita Scheve, Wilson Elementary principal, led the board and others attending the meeting on a tour of the building.
She said Wilson’s census of 409 students is the highest the school has ever seen.
“Our enrollment is maintaining. It’s not declining,” she said. “A common theme you’re going to see tonight is lack of storage."
She pointed out areas such as just outside the library, where unused desks and other equipment are stored, or hallways outside classrooms where teachers have learning materials in rolling carts and other storage containers.
“The fire marshal doesn’t like the things that are in the hallway, so we’re going to have to move those,” Sheve said.
She has been working with Lindsay to have a storage container placed on the west side of the building as economical storage, she said.
Some of the lighting is from the original 1959 construction and windows were last replaced in 1985 when an addition was built. The art and music wing was added in 1966.
The “cafegymatorium” — where students eat breakfast and lunch and have physical education classes and assemblies — allows only 10 minutes to clean up between meals and P.E. classes. Assemblies have to be presented twice: once for kindergarten through second grade, then again for third to fifth grade.
“The HVAC system is the original from 1959,” she said, including the boiler. It supplies not only the original building but also much of the additions.
Classrooms in the original sections of the building are about 700 to 750 square feet. Current recommendations for elementary schools are 900 to 1,000 square feet.
That makes for a space squeeze as each classroom is part of the school’s trauma responsive practices, which require them to have an area where students can go when troubled by their emotions.
“It’s kind of a calm-down corner,” Scheve said, “really just a space where they can go if they’re feeling frustrated and don’t know what to do with those feelings.”
The space keeps them in the classroom until they can get back to a state where they’re ready to learn, but the school also needs a room for those students, she said.
“We really need a calm room where someone can work with a child that’s struggling, that’s disregulated, where we can quickly access in K-1,” she said. “With a kid who’s struggling it’s a long trek to get back to the office or past the office where a conference room is. Clearly a hallway is not a great place to work with a kid who’s just deregulated because there’s no privacy."
After the tour, board president Mike Walker commended Scheve and the Wilson staff on how they use the space they have.
“I’m impressed by the staff and teachers finding ways to use the space,” he said. “If we could get a bond passed around here, we could add on or replace or something."
“It’s got some inequities, but we’ve done a really good job of being good stewards of a facility for a really long time. Unfortunately, there’s this space issue, and I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said superintendent Ron Wilson.