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Classes are over, but there's work to be done at Merced schools

You might think summer is a quiet, tranquil time on school campuses with students and teachers on vacation.

Not so.

Summer is crunch time for Merced City School District maintenance personnel at the four middle schools, 13 elementary schools and other buildings. It's the only time of year when more than half of $500,000 in big construction and maintenance projects can be done.

Kraig Magnussen, the district's chief operations officer, said his people are "busy, busy, busy" in the summer.

"As soon as school lets out, we hit the ground running," Magnussen said. "There's only a short window to get work done. For maintenance and operations people, summer is busier than school time."

Summer is the time when reroofing, parking lot paving, flooring and carpeting, painting, electrical upgrade and drainage projects are scheduled. Some of the bigger projects are done by outside contractors, with district workers handling the others.

Big projects starting next week include finishing the Rivera Middle School gym, reroofing about a quarter of Cruickshank Middle School, repainting John Muir Elementary School and relocating the district's Professional Development Center from Tenaya Middle School to the Sierra Center behind the Chenoweth Elementary School campus.

Hoover Middle School's gymnasium will get a resurfaced wooden floor, and sewer lines will be replaced on the Tenaya campus, Magnussen said.

Nine skilled maintenance technicians including carpenters, welders, electricians, plumbers, heating-cooling specialists, locksmiths and irrigation specialists are pressed into serv-ice, assisted by seven maintenance workers.

Once the maintenance staff gets the big projects done in mid-July, the district's 42 custodians will do deep cleaning at each school. That includes wiping down walls from the ceiling to the ground, shampooing carpets, waxing floors and replacing wood chips in some elementary school play areas.

"We plan what we do in the summer in February, getting budgets approved, especially on projects that call for bids," Magnussen said. "We are trying to make sure things are safe and secure. That's our contribution. We try to create environments that enhance learning for kids, giving opportunities to get the most out of the educational experience."

William Rains, supervisor of maintenance, said summer is the ideal time for many projects because there isn't a lot of time otherwise when they can get into the classrooms.

"Next Monday we will hit the ground running in all sorts of directions, every way we can," Rains said. "The next thing you know, it will be two weeks before the kids come back. We start talking about summer three months beforehand."

Magnussen said maintenance personnel are happy to get eight to 10 years out of a school paint job, and some schools are painted every 10 to 12 years. A roof should last 30 years, along with heaters and air conditioners, if newer, more energy-efficient units aren't deemed more practical.

The district spends about $600,000 a year on deferred maintenance projects, which fall outside routine maintenance. About $2 million a year is spent on routine maintenance, Magnussen said.

Rains said sidewalks around a school need to be checked, along with nighttime security features, especially lighting. Maintenance personnel also will be helping about 50 reassigned teachers relocate to other schools this summer.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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