Many Duluth public schools are facing the possibility of being revamped in the near future to bring them back to code and to save money.
A study, commisioned by the school district from Johnson Controls, states that the Duluth public schools combined will need $202 million in renovations over the next ten years.
Spending $202 million, said Duluth public schools Superintendent Keith Dixon, is not the necessary outcome of this report.
"From the beginning we have been committed to an open process," Dixon said.
In previous studies, dating back to 1994, it was estimated that Duluth schools needed roughly $100 million in upgrades.
"When you think about the buildings in the community, it wasn't a surprise to us," Dixon said in regards to the amount of money needed for repairs now, compared with 1994.
Approximately 1,600 deficiencies were reported over the last six months at the 23 schools studied. According to a Johnson Control program manager Brent Jones, none of them were major violations, such as a fire alarm not working.
The report states that the two biggest problem areas at Duluth public schools are air/water quality, and "beyond rated life." Beyond rated life means some type of equipment used at the school, such as a boiler, has outlived its normal life expectancy.
As far as the air and water quality assessment is concerned, the group looked at what conditions are affecting the water and the indoor environment of the school. An example would be insufficient ventilation.
Close to half of the $202 million would be dedicated towards these two areas.
According to Jones, many schools are having problems because of their age. Since many Duluth public schools are very old, it's critical that maintenance be kept up.
"The district has done a very good job, as far as maintenance is concerned," Jones said.
However, maintinance isn't always enough. According to the report, new equipment would reduce the amount of money spent on utilities.
The Duluth public schools currently spends about $2.4 million on utilities each year. If worn-out equipment were replaced, the school district could save about $500,000 a year, or 21 percent.
Denfeld High School leads the way in amount of dollars spent for needed upgrades at close to $20 million. This number is deceiving, however. Denfeld spends about $75 per square foot, which is near the average when compared with other schools.
The Lester Park Elementary School needs about $10 million in upgrades, but this number is also deceiving. They spend close to $150 per square foot, which is the highest among all schools.
The reason that they spend this amount of money for this school is mainly due to age, Jones said.
The area that needed the least amount of improvement in the Duluth public schools is accessibility. These are conditions that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Close to $2.8 million are needed in upgrades for this area.
The study, which was organized by Johnson Controls, involved many different agencies with their own specialties. These agencies, combined with Johnson Controls, came up with a 1,600 page report to explain some of the issues. The Duluth public schools and a local Citizens Group were also a part of the process.
Last week a press conference was held discussing the demographics of the local schools. The school district's next press conference, on Dec. 12, will discuss the value of the district's buildings and land. A final press conference to Duluth's educational adequacy is scheduled for Dec. 19.
Other meetings, which will include a public audience, are scheduled for January. The first one starts at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at the DECC.
To get the summary of this report, go to www.duluth.k12.mn.us and click on "overview and facilities summary." People without Internet access can call 218-336-8735 for an overview and summary. Copies of the 1,600 page report can also be reviewed at the Old Central High School, 215 North First Avenue East, room 213.
School board contact list
Mike Akervik, at-large school board member
Mary Cameron, at-large school board member
Laura Condon, District No. 4
Tim Grover, District No. 3
Thomas Hustad, District No. 2, school board chair
Nancy Nilsen, at-large school board member
Ann Wasson, District No. 1
Fisketti, Joe - Central High School. Term ends Dec. 31, 2006.
Schraw, Melody - Denfeld High School. Term ends Dec. 31, 2006.
Wasson, Mike - East High School. Term ends Dec. 31, 2006.