The Toledo School District has a month before a modernization bond of $23.5 million will be placed before the voters, and Superintendent Sharon Bower said the bond is needed in order to bring failing systems up to code.
The bond is estimated at $2.68 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, with a majority of the money aiming to accomplish a complete remodel of Toledo High School. Bower said the roof, plumbing and electrical systems, among other things, are out of date and need to be replaced.
“The high school was built in 1975 and when I talk about the high school, I talk about none of you are driving a car that you bought in 1975, none of you are using the technology, what little there was, in 1975 and yet that’s where our kids are going to school,” Bower explained.
If the bond was passed, her plans are to completely gut the inside of the high school, updating systems that she said have outlived their life expectancy.
“The bricks are in great shape, so from the outside everything looks good,” Bower said. “But the infrastructures within are dying.”
Currently there are no bonds on the books and the last bond passed was in 1996 for both the middle school and the elementary school.
Although the bond, which is up for a vote Nov. 4, will focus on a few projects within those two schools, the majority of it is planned for the high school. A list of projects for the high school include a pitched roof, remodels of the plumbing, electrical, fire and intercom systems, as well as remodels of the restrooms, classrooms, kitchen, windows and doors. The money would also be utilized to update the sports complex to include football stadium restrooms and track surfacing for the dirt track currently in place.
The flat roof has caused the school problems before and Bower said it is time-consuming to make sure the roof is clear of debris and water. Although some patching has been completed, there are still leaks that need to be addressed.
She stated that the current fire system in place, although in code for a 1975 building, it is not up to code for a newer structure.
“(It’s) not deemed unsafe, but it is not to code for 2014, so bringing that up to code would be huge,” Bower said.
As for the kitchen, the staff and equipment has outgrown the small space and the current electrical system does not have a large enough load for all the appliances.
“In 1975 you didn’t have to plug very much in and now we have to plug a lot in,” Bower said.
The current electrical load not only affects the kitchen, but, she said, it also affects the computer labs, the two shops, the art room and classrooms, including the biology lab, the science lab and the family and consumer science room.
“It all goes back to the electrical load,” Bower said. “We can buy new equipment, but we can’t plug it in.”
In order to redo the plumbing and electrical systems, the school would need to undergo some demolition since the systems are hidden within thick cement and concrete bricks.
Another problem is the aging water system, she said. The family and consumer science room does not get hot water, and the water in the kitchen cuts in and out.
As someone makes their way through their school, it is easy to see inch-wide cracks underneath some of the doors leading outside, something Bower stated was partly due to the metal frames getting warped over time.
The school currently struggles finding a place to plug anything in, overutilizing the electrical system put in place.
“We need a lot of work technology-wise,” Rusty Henthorne, the school’s technology guru, said. “We now have such a huge need with testing online and we’re having a difficult time facilitating enough computers for that.”
Originally the school was built with an open concept theme, something Bower stated was not suitable for the age of the high school students.
“Open concept was designed for 3- to 8-year-olds,” she explained.
The school has put temporary walls in place to section off extra classrooms, but the thin walls do little in the way of keeping sound out. According to Bower, real walls could not be added because of the construction of the building.
She said the outside noise coming from the adjacent classrooms is distracting and makes holding class difficult.
The panels used are also outdated, Bower said, stating that many are cracked and breaking apart.
“We are taping and trying anything we can to keep the panels together,” she said.
High School Principal Martin Huffman said that pretty much everything other than the exterior structure is causing problems.
“The bricks are good; everything else is not,” Huffman said. “There’s lots of years of use and the kids have taken it on themselves to do a lot of internal work, making it look nicer.”
He said students recently have painted the interior of the school, patched and fixed walls and will soon be making a facade on an entryway to try to help improve the look of the building.
“They take a little ownership on it,” Huffman explained.
Bower agreed, saying the students have done all that they can to make the building look nicer, but in the end, the inside of the building needs to redone.
“I believe our kids really take ownership and treat our facilities well. You couldn’t ask for them to treat it any better than they do,” Bower said. “They are still kids, but that is their school. Can you imagine what we could do if they had a learning space that could meet their potential? They’d be unstoppable.”
Bower said that if the bond fails, the only option the school district will have is to run it again. She said there was no other funding system to get the amount of money the district needs to do what has to be done.
The bond up for vote, if passed, will also offer some safety upgrades like automatic lockdown security doors and security cameras, ensuring the school had the right tools in case of a perpetrator.
To Bower, the bottom line is the district needs the money and the longer the bond gets put off, the more it will cost the district in the long run.
“The really sad part is the longer we wait, the more it will cost. That’s just a fact,” she said. “And I’m also concerned that the longer we wait, the higher interest rates will go.”
The bond also aims at making improvements to the elementary and middle school, including an electrical update, as well as updates to the kitchen, restrooms and carpets, among other things.