It’s not just parents and students gearing up for the upcoming school year. Area school districts have been hard at work all summer completing a number of tasks to get buildings up to snuff and labor agreements ratified in order to make sure that on the first day of school, students come back to clean and improved buildings and facilities, as well as a complete staff for the individual schools.
What follows is a rundown of the various capital improvement projects and other chores the four public school districts servicing west Oakland County completed since students were last hitting the books.
HURON VALLEY SCHOOLS
Huron Valley Schools has conducted a slew of improvements in or on the grounds of most of the buildings within the district before its nearly 10,000 students plow through the doors.
“In the summer we complete audits, hire staff, do annual reports, clean buildings thoroughly, inspect buses, conduct registrations, conduct student scheduling, and plan bus routes,” said Huron Valley Communications Director Kim Root.
Approximately 1,300 staff members are on the district’s payroll, including members of 10 bargaining units with contracts that are set to expire June 30, 2013. The largest union is the Huron Valley Education Association with 580 teachers in its membership.
If needed, substitute teachers, paraeducators and bus drivers are acquired through the Oakland Human Resources Consortium.
“We do a guest teacher hiring and orientation in August and again in January, if necessary,” Root said.
The district’s general fund budget is $84.5 million. The district has not needed to borrow prior to a new school year since 2001-02.
Many of the district’s improvement projects are completed using building and site sinking fund dollars. According to Michelle Kerns, the district’s owners representative for construction, Huron Valley nets about $1.9 million per year to do enhancements at its 15 schools and other buildings.
The lion’s share of building and site sinking fund dollars were used to switch over the Bogie Lake Campus — comprised of Huron Valley Lakeland High School, Lakewood Elementary School and White Lake Middle School — to municipal sewers as of June 1.
Other funds were used for a pair of large paving projects, including one at Kurtz Elementary School. About $290,000 was spent to widen and repave the parking lot. Another $11,000 was spent to repave the bus loop at Heritage Elementary School.
“We had small paving projects at six to eight other buildings, but they were miscellaneous paving repairs,” Kerns said.
Building and site sinking fund dollars were also used to replace the 25-year-old roof and gutters at Johnson Elementary School for $161,000, a project that was completed last week.
Some heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment was replaced at Oxbow and White Lake elementaries. In addition, partial flooring was laid at Heritage and Johnson elementaries, Muir Middle School, and Huron Valley Lakeland and Milford high schools.
“We have a rotating program at the high schools,” Root said. “Each (is) about 400,000 square feet, so we do a portion each year.”
Other projects included a remodeling of the girls locker room at Muir; new lighting at the Lakeland High School auxiliary gym; installation of two outside storage sheds at Milford High School and Lakewood Elementary School; and demolition of two portable trailers at the Duck Lake Center and one at Lakewood, as well as partial painting projects at Johnson, Heritage, Oxbow, Muir, and both high schools.
“You can’t facilitate repairs with the BSSF (building and site sinking fund), so general fund dollars were used for small repairs and painting at 18 different buildings,” Kerns said.
The Waterford School District has done everything possible to make sure that students and staff have a smooth transition into the 2012-13 school year.
The district has 25 buildings that require routine maintenance. Its budget is $120.48 million and it employs approximately 1,600 full- and part-time employees.
The district also negotiated new contracts for all employee groups for the 2012-13 school year.
“All groups renegotiated their health care benefits, increased their contributions to their health care costs, and took a pay freeze,” said Thomas Wiseman, assistant superintendent of business and operations. This also included those individuals not represented by a union, which is the superintendent and administrators.”
Wiseman added that the district has enough guest employees to meet its needs for the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.
Improvements made to district facilities include creating new academic centers at both Waterford Mott and Waterford Kettering high schools, as well as remodeling kitchens at four elementary schools, updating classrooms at Waterford Kettering and Mason Middle School, and installing interior door replacements at Adams Elementary School and Pierce Middle School.
The Waterford district also purchased or leased nine replacement or new buses.
“We are also replacing 900 computers and purchasing 33 smart boards to be placed in classrooms throughout the district,” Wiseman said. “All projects are being completed or are already completed. All will be ready for the beginning of the school year.”
All buildings in the district are thoroughly cleaned during the summer months. Carpets are extracted, floors are waxed, windows are washed and areas are painted, according to Wiseman. Boilers are also inspected and licensed.
“The district has over 2 million square feet of buildings to maintain,” he said. “Our maintenance and operations staff take care of all these annual and ongoing maintenance chores. This also includes maintaining our parking lots, restriping them and making certain they are cleaned. We also mow all of the district properties and get all athletic fields properly cared for to be ready for the beginning of the sports season.”
Wiseman added that the district employs additional part-time staff during the summer to complete these tasks both inside and out.
“We have part-time individuals who assist our custodians, we have part-time staff that work on the grounds, and we hire individuals that do painting,” he said.
The district also runs summer school at its Crary Campus for high school and middle school students, and operates an elementary summer school program at Haviland Elementary School.
“Our performing art centers and pool and fitness centers offer a variety of programs during the summer for our students and community. We also offer free summer feeding programs for all children in our community at our Crary Campus,” Wiseman said. “Thousands of children under the age of 18 took advantage of this program that we initiated this year. This program was funded 100 percent with federal dollars.”
Wiseman added that teachers and administrators have been working hard all summer focusing on teaching and meeting students’ educational needs to ensure that all of students are successful.
“They have been attending workshops, working in their buildings with each other and planning for a great school year,” Wiseman said.
WEST BLOOMFIELD SCHOOLS
The West Bloomfield School District has 10 buildings for schools and administrative and community services, plus one transportation facility.
The district’s current budget is $63.4 million and it has an estimated 638 employees on staff.
The West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education at a special board meeting on Monday, Aug. 13 officially ratified a new contract with the West Bloomfield Education Association (WBEA) teachers union for the 2012-13 school year.
The new one-year contract states that WBEA members will remain on a 6-percent, temporary cut in the salary schedule.
WBEA members will also see changes in their medical insurance deductibles, which will now be $500 for single-person coverage and $1,000 for a couple or family.
“Members will be paying an increased amount for health care due to the new state cap, which means a higher amount of premium costs for employees,” said Cyndi Austin, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) representative for West Bloomfield Schools. “I think due to the continued financial status of the district, this (contract) is the best that we could hope for.”
Prior to the school board meeting, the WBEA held its own ratification meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9 before having its members vote on the contract on Friday, Aug. 10.
Dr. Nelson Hersh, treasurer of the West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education, said that the board is happy that the contract is now behind them.
“Now we can come together to do what’s best for kids in the classroom,” he said.
Improvements that have taken place or are taking place at West Bloomfield High School over the summer include the installation of three new energy efficient boilers, associated piping and pumps, as well as a new hot water heater.
The school also remodeled 20 of its instructional classrooms and its pool and gym locker rooms.
The school’s pool saw its overhead lighting replaced, as well as its ceiling painted, while the second floor wave flooring had its carpet removed and tile installed.
The school’s athletic facilities saw improvements to the baseball fields and painting inside and outside the concessions building.
The gym also had its wood floor sanded and painted and new lighting was installed.
The school’s auditorium received lighting improvements, while the school had its HVAC ducts cleaned in a few areas.
Various areas saw hallway ceilings replaced and fire sprinklers improved.
Meanwhile, Orchard Lake Middle School received new window treatments and various areas painted, and Abbott Middle School received new window treatments.
All district buildings and sites had some concrete sidewalks replaced.
“All construction projects will be completed for the start of the new academic year,” said Pam Zajac, the district’s public relations and marketing coordinator. “Window treatments at the middle schools will be done during the afternoon hours after school is done daily.”
She added that routine summer maintenance is completed by in-house maintenance staff and temporary employees.
Those maintenance duties include work orders and preventative maintenance, playground fall material installation, tree trimming, mulch installation, and landscaping.
Other duties include parking lot painting and hole patching, weed control and grounds turf maintenance, catch basin repairs and cleaning, grass cutting and trimming, athletic field marking, and building and roof inspections.
Also included are HVAC upgrades and filter replacements, while GCA Services handles building cleaning.
Licensed, contracted vendors handle regulatory compliance inspections in the district, including inspections of fire alarms, sprinklers, suppression systems and extinguishers, as well as emergency lighting and ground fault protection.
Other systems inspected include elevators, lift pumps, boilers, and pressurized vessels.
Bleachers, playgrounds, flagpoles, parking lot light poles, folding doors and partitions are also inspected.
Water testing is also conducted, as well as examination of back flow preventers and cross connections, along with the district’s storm water management plan.
WALLED LAKE SCHOOLS
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools have been busy over the past couple of months preparing for the upcoming school year at the Community Education Center and all of its schools — with the exception of Maple and Twin Beach elementary schools, which were closed at the end of the last school year.
Eighteen of the district’s 20 buildings were the sites of capital improvement projects this year. According to Bill Chatfield, the district’s director of operations, the projects totaled around $2 million and came from the district’s building and sinking fund millage, which is up for a renewal on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The major project that finished this summer was at Walnut Creek Middle School, which was replacing the building’s temperature control system for around $600,000.
“The result will be improved comfort and reduced energy costs,” Chatfield said. “We went to a digital control system which will replace the old pneumatic air system. It was a very complicated and extensive project. We started during Spring Break in April and will be finishing it up next week.”
Other major projects occurred at Oakley Park and Dublin elementary schools, where parking lots were expanded and replaced. The bus loop was also widened at Oakley Park Elementary School. The cost of the project at Oakley Park was $400,000 and the one at Dublin was $300,000.
The tracks at Walled Lake Central and Walled Lake Western high schools were also resurfaced at $150,000 each. The softball and baseball facilities at Western were also renovated.
Meanwhile, doors had deteriorated and needed attention at multiple buildings in the district, including at Sarah Banks Middle School, the three high schools, Geisler Middle School, Glengary Elementary School, Loon Lake Elementary, Oakley Park, Clifford Smart Middle School, Walnut Creek Middle School, and Wixom Elementary School.
Deteriorated concrete was also repaired or replaced at several buildings, including Walled Lake Central, the Educational Services Center, Hickory Woods Elementary, Loon Lake Elementary, Pleasant Lake Elementary, Walled Lake Elementary, and Walnut Creek Middle School.
“At the Community Education Center, we are also improving the barrier-free entrances,” said Chatfield, adding that total project costs were around $300,000. “We had a number of projects that consumed a majority of this year’s building and site sinking (fund) budget, but we still had the money to make significant improvements to other buildings with smaller projects.”
Another significant project was moving the modular classrooms from the recently closed Maple Elementary to Pleasant Lake Elementary.
“These are portable classrooms that exist as freestanding classroom facilities that sit on the school site,” Chatfield said. “They are used for overflow situations for buildings with overcrowded conditions, which was the case at Maple three years ago. While we don’t have overcrowded conditions at Pleasant Lake Elementary, they will see the greatest student enrollment increase in the coming years so it seemed like the most natural fit.”
Meanwhile, all the district buses have been inspected, with 117 of the district’s 119 buses receiving a perfect inspection evaluation. Two buses were flagged for a rattling brake chamber and a check valve on the air chamber, respectively, but both were fixed and passed inspection the same day, according to Chatfield.
With the closing of Maple and Twin Beach elementary schools, a vast majority of the work for maintenance crews has been helping teachers relocate to other schools in the district, in addition to the hundreds of jobs that normally take place during the district’s “deep cleaning” projects, which all were completed satisfactorily.
“Even with all the summer programs, camps, and classes going on in our various buildings, our custodial staff did a really great job in getting the facilities ready, even having to work around those activities,” said Chatfield.
The district’s budget for the upcoming school year is $150.24 million.
Staff writers Angela Niemi and Leslie Shepard contributed to this report.