Last week a letter stated that there is no "smoking gun" on health and safety at the middle school. But while his letter was hitting the presses, the gun went off. The roof developed a leak that caused a partial ceiling collapse in the auditorium. Luckily school was out when it happened, and there was no rehearsal, gym, or community group activity going on inside. This time.
While the final cost for emergency repairs is not yet in, facilities director Steve Callahan notified the board on Wednesday that the cost would exceed $50,000 out of the operating budget. That's around what it costs to pay one teacher for a year. That means next year we'll either see that bill on our taxes or see a class shut down.
Mr. Callahan also advised that six sections of the roof appear to be in danger of suffering the same fate, all due to age. We could just let this happen, one expensive emergency at a time out of our non-aidable operating budget, the same budget that pays for salaries and programming, and pray that our luck in having them happen when students and staff are out of the room will hold up. Or we can come to grips with the reality that these structures are very old, worn out, and increasingly dangerous, and put the needed improvements into a capital budget that will have three-fifths of its costs reimbursed by the state, and solve these problems once and for all with a comprehensive combination of full renovation and new construction.
The school board isn't trying to get us to approve taxing ourselves to put velvet upholstery on the chairs or serve filet mignon in the lunch room. This is necessary work. It's been postponed for years, and will remain necessary and increasingly costly whether or not we approve the bond. The difference is, if we approve the bond, we'll get it done for less money, completely and for much longer duration, and at much lower risk of accidents. Please join me in supporting the renovation of the middle school.