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Old school is showing its age
by MATTHEW NASH
On a tour of the Sequim Community School, John McAndie, maintenance and operations supervisor for the school district, pointed out some of the many struggles staff must deal with to keep the school running.
The school board and staff have identified the need to demolish the school and build a new grade school for Helen Haller Elementary, but no plan has been made yet.
At the heart of the community school is a steam boiler, the only one in the district. In 1998, the Sequim High School auditorium, cafeteria and gymnasium were upgraded to heat pumps.
McAndie said if temperatures go below 30 degrees at night, then it takes 125 gallons or $400 of fuel a day to get the heat up for daily operation in the community school.
“We spend more money to heat this school than any grade school,” McAndie said.
When the building needs heat, the main offices can be isolated but the rest of the school must be heated at once.
McAndie said oil prices are one of the high expense issues with the school along with single-pane windows and poor insulation in walls and ceilings.
Keeping heat in is one issue but keeping water out is another. Most of the school’s roof space leads inward toward drains rather than outward with rainspouts.
McAndie said before they took out 18 trees last summer, needles and leaves would clog drains causing receding water up to six inches to pool up.
He said depending on what time of year it was custodian Shirley Toso was spending more time sweeping the roof than the hallways.
In the past few years, district staff have patched the roof a few times.
McAndie said even if the whole roof were patched, it would cost about $500,000 to resurface but not solve the issue of drains leading water to the middle of the building.
“What if we did put $500,000 into it (the roof)?” he asked.
“There are probably four or five other $500,000 projects on the laundry list we’d need to do, too.”
McAndie said he’s spent more than $100,000 in the past few years on repairs to the roof, boiler and kitchen area with help from grants.
“There’s a lot more we could do maintenance-wise,” McAndie said.
“We’ve done the minimal amount of maintenance because the district isn’t sure how committed they are to the school. We keep building functioning but it’s not ideal.”
Creating a current school in old space is difficult in the Community School space.
McAndie said there’s not much space between the ceiling and the roof for electrical and telephone wires, Internet fibers and water pipes.
He said skylights make it increasingly difficult to make repairs and installations to modern technology because all wires and piping are diverted into classrooms in these spaces.
Even if the district did want to upgrade the building’s electrical capacity, the cost could be incredibly high.
McAndie said the electrical services in the building now are inefficient and they barely squeaked out two computer labs. He said there isn’t enough output to put a few computers in each classroom.
“Even in 1979, this wasn’t enough capacity,” he said.