Superintendent News

In my previous column, I addressed the aging facilities within our school district. The last entirely new school construction occurred in 1968, when our middle school was built. That was fifty-six years ago.  The average age per square foot in the district is forty-five years.  

This column includes the results of a facility analysis prepared by ATS&R and presented to the school district in September 2021. This study was commissioned by the school district to better understand the condition of our buildings and to plan for current and future maintenance needs.  Please note that many of the issues cited are similar, as both Adams and McKinley buildings date back to 1939. Therefore, to be more concise, I have combined the comments and have noted where significant discrepancies exist. 

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MCKINLEY & ADAMS ELEMENTARY – FACILITIES ASSESSMENT SUMMARY BY CATEGORY

Site

  • Replace sections of concrete pavement areas that are broken, pitted, and/or are a trip hazard
  • Including the removal and replacement of metal railings where present/necessary
  • Remove and replace concrete steps, concrete wing walls, and metal railings
  • Steps do not have equal and proportional risers, or a trip hazard exist
  • Clean and caulk expansion joint pavement cracks; both structural and/or parallel to building
  • Remove and replace sections of asphalt pavement areas to improve drainage. Clean and fill asphalt pavement cracks and seal coat asphalt pavement areas
  • Remove, replace, or mend chain link fence sections
  • Correct drainage and low areas around the building to provide proper drainage away from the building.

General Building Condition – Exterior and Interior

  • Roofs out of warranty and beyond life expectancy
  • Exterior- masonry restoration, canopies, corrosion at lintels and doors- require upgrades
  • Interior- doors, VAT replacement, carpet, roof access and restroom accessibility- require upgrades
  • Roof ‘Tenting’- stress points masonry condition- requiring restoration/cleaning/repair, replace sealants 
  • Roof Access by portable ladder – create interior ships ladder access.
  • Water erosion at base of masonry wall - require correction to divert water away
  • Non-accessible sinks
  • Basement staff area- non accessible, material upgrades required
  • Old chalkboards/ tackboards- need upgrades 

Food Service

  • Revise kitchen to comply with hybrid central kitchen district model. Serving line to be replaced for adequate serving. Replace non-compliant equipment including wood cabinetry. 

Mechanical

In 2014 McKinley Elementary School had HVAC upgrades throughout the building. These upgrades include a central geothermal system provides heating and cooling to the building. The plant consists of modular water-cooled chillers and three sets of pumps to circulate water through the well, cooling, and heating loops.

A rooftop energy recovery unit provides ventilation to the fan coil units. There are a total of 29 fan coil units and 2 air handling units which distribute supply air and provide temperature control. The building energy management system is direct digital control. The following are recommendation incorporated in the report:

  • Replace all Gruvlok fittings
  • Provide backup hot water boiler
  • Replace old exhaust fans
  • Replace domestic hot water heaters

In 2017 Adams Elementary School had HVAC upgrades throughout the building. These upgrades include a central geothermal system provides heating and cooling to the building. The plant consists of modular water-cooled chillers and three sets of pumps to circulate water through the well, cooling, and heating loops.

A rooftop energy recovery unit provides ventilation to the fan coil units. There are a total of 30 fan coil units and 2 air handling units which distribute supply air and provide temperature control. The building energy management system is direct digital control. A backup condensing hot water boiler was added in 2019.

The following are recommendations incorporated in the report:

  • Replace old exhaust fans
  • Replace domestic hot water heaters

Electrical

  • Some electrical panels are original and need to be replaced.

Technology

  • Replace technology cabling, which is older and does not meet current installation standards. It was installed before there were standards, so it is installed improperly (i.e. running over light fixtures, which can create interference, unsupported laying on ceiling tiles, etc.).

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Properly maintaining older facilities is expensive and with the average age per square foot of our buildings calculated at 45 years, there is no shortage of work to keep up with.  We rely on what is designated as long-term facility maintenance (LTFM) dollars and capital revenue to maintain our facilities and to purchase equipment.  

Most members of our community might logically assume that all districts receive a similar amount of revenue per student.  Unfortunately, this is far from the reality.  District’s may benefit from various funding resources from the state and some have passed excess operating levies locally to provide additional revenue.  The end result creates a system of gross inequalities.  Consider the following table that illustrates the funding Fergus Falls Public School receives (and subsequent expenditures) in comparison to the state average:

R/E

Category

2018 Rank

2019 Rank

2020 Rank

2021 Rank

2022 Rank

 

Enrollment

69th

67th

66th

63rd

65th

R

State Special Education funding per student

475th

477th

470th

470th

486th

R

State Funding per student

468th

468th

474th

472nd

464th

R

Federal Funding per student

463rd

470th

480th

454th

193rd

R

General Fund levy per student

210th

278th

269th

263rd

242nd

R

Total General Fund funding per student

476th

473rd

470th

479th

401st

R

Total All Fund funding per student

459th

459th

468th

476th

437th

E

Administrative costs per student

483rd

486th

473rd

496th

496th

E

Instructional costs per student

435th

438th

454th

406th

498th

E

Support costs per student

368th

342nd

330th

363rd

154th

E

Capital Expenditures per student

241st

381st

318th

428th

359th

E

Total General Fund expenditures per student

470th

473rd

476th

484th

488th

E

Total Expenditures per student in all funds

455th

473rd

456th

398th

480th

 

Total:  508 school districts and charter schools.    R = Revenue     E = Expenditures

In summary, out of 508 school districts and charter schools, only 71 receive less revenue per student than we do.  As noted in the data, comparatively it is necessary for us to use more of our revenue for facility repairs/maintenance and the purchase of equipment.

Even if we were able to complete all that needs to be done to those facilities, issues will remain.  The buildings don’t have specialized teaching spaces for collaborative learning, STEM and project-based learning.  They weren’t designed to accommodate Title I, special education, English Learners and other pull-out/support services including mental health.  It won’t solve the issues with a lack of rehearsal space for band and orchestra at Cleveland.  It won’t address the 35-40 minutes of instruction lost each day transporting students to and from the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.  It won’t fix the parking issues.  

The district recognizes the trust our community places in us to utilize our financial resources prudently.  Given our funding status, we do our best to stretch every dollar.  With the inherent expenses associated with aging facilities, that becomes a greater challenge with each passing year.