By Alex Rinfret-Four of the district’s six schools have reached the end of their useful life, and the school board will have to carefully consider how much money to spend maintaining buildings that may not be around much longer, maintenance supervisor Steve Finnigan told trustees at their regular monthly meeting last week.
Mr. Finnigan, who is here on a temporary contract until July, said he spent his first month on the job inspecting the school buildings, setting up a preventative maintenance program, reviewing custodian training and staffing, and tackling various other issues.
His initial report to trustees, which he distributed at the April 25 meeting, revealed some disturbing problems. Most of the school buildings are old, as are their heating and ventilation systems.
“Most of the boilers are very old and have not been stripped down to have a proper cleaning in many years,” his report says. “The question is, how much money do you want to spend on buildings that may not be around much longer?”
But even the relatively new Sk’aadgaa Naay school in Skidegate has some surprising maintenance problems, Mr. Finnigan said.
“That school’s got a lot of awards and so on, but the floorÂ… It’s incredibly bad,” he said. His report says the floors are being destroyed by the pea gravel surrounding the school, which gets trapped in kids’ running shoes when they play outside, then gets tracked across the floor when they enter the building.
Another problem is the pressboard which was used throughout the hallways and in the cloakroom areas. This material is falling apart as it gets wet and some of it is beyond repair, Mr. Finnigan said.
Teacher Jenny White said she appreciated hearing the blunt report, and agreed with the assessment of Sk’aadgaa Naay.
“I’ve just been appalled,” at the pressboard’s condition, she said. “It’s such a beautiful school and it looks awful.”
The newer schools also have electronic controls with expensive boards, which are vulnerable to the “dirty power supply” here on the islands. The circuit boards are much more costly to fix than older technology, and “the brownouts just toast them,” he told trustees.
Mr. Finnigan said he will be going through every system in the district to evaluate its performance and efficiency. He has also inventorying the make, model, and serial number of every piece of equipment, how often it needs to be checked, who does it, and what parts need to be stocked as spares.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said. “I’m taking it one day at a time right now.”
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