The “laundry list” of summer tasks to get Merced schools ready for the new school year is still long, but maintenance crews have been steadily whittling it down.
The end result will be worth all the turmoil and work when students return Aug. 18, said Ken Testa, director of facilities for the Merced City School District.
Testa said the 18-member roving maintenance crew is like a football team in the middle of intense “double days” practice in the hot summer sun right now.
“It is challenging but we’re doing it as a team,” Testa said. “They know game time is coming. The payoff is when things are clean, mowed, painted and they’re ready.”
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The district’s summer projects list at 20 sites throughout the Merced area includes painting the exterior of Charles Wright Elementary School, reroofing Alicia Reyes Elementary School, resurfacing about 25 ramps leading up to portables at various schools and replacing carpets in 16 classrooms districtwide.
Crews also were installing 85 security screens on classroom windows and adding or updating security motion detectors in most classrooms districtwide.
Fencing around Franklin Elementary School and the Community Day School also is being replaced. The Student and Family Services Center near Clark Preschool also was repainted.
Maintenance crews have installed more than 700 yards of playground fall-safe materials and more than 21 tons of rubber nuggets in playground areas.
They also are completing the installation of Chromebook carts and computers in all third- through eighth-grade classrooms and replacing XP computers at all sites throughout the district, according to Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services.
Other big chores included refinishing all middle school gymnasium floors and flooring in elementary school multipurpose rooms. Five school cafeterias got new dishwashers, along with associated drains, electrical work and tiling.
Testa said the summer maintenance list isn’t a hit-or-miss thing. Almost nine months of planning goes into determining what gets the concentrated attention of maintenance personnel in the summer.
“The projects aren’t put together in isolation,” Testa said. “We can’t afford not to do things right. We focus on being thorough. There is a lot of collaboration with site administrators for delivery of projects that are efficient and well-planned.”
Testa said maintenance and operations employees are part of the greater professional learning community. Their input is valued in dealing with school sites that are continuing to get older and need more attention.
“We plan together, troubleshoot together and learn together,” Testa said. “We are asking a lot of questions of the maintenance staff about what’s out there. We listen to the maintenance and custodial staff; they know what makes classrooms more efficient. What’s more and more important and pays dividends to staff and students is the caring, thoughtfulness and professionalism of the maintenance staff.”
Testa said maintenance crews try to prevent issues before they happen, paying attention to older plumbing, lighting fixtures, drainage and electrical systems. Attention is devoted to retrofitting older schools with more modern equipment.
Spicer, Testa and administrators at each site meet weekly to analyze short-term and long-term maintenance needs. Some classified (non-teaching) workers who are off in the summer months, such as bus drivers, are called on to lend a hand in the summer with maintenance projects.
Contracts for carpet installation, painting and roofing totaled about $261,000, along with another $185,000 in materials. In addition, materials for summer work performed by the district maintenance department cost about $157,800, Spicer said.
William Rains, supervisor of maintenance, said the composite tile roofing at Reyes School was replaced with standing rib metal roofing. Tiles were beginning to fall off, creating a safety concern.
Rains said it typically takes about a month to paint the exterior of a school. He said it may have been 20 years ago that Wright School was last painted. There is always more work to do when students are gone.
“We hit the ground running the day after school’s out,” Rains said.