SUNDERLAND – As the list of repairs and maintenance at Sunderland Elementary School grows, Superintendent Darius Modestow met with the board last week to start discussions on how to resolve them.
The group came out of the discussion by determining that Union 38 school district and the city will need to cooperate to assess their fundraising methods.
“We are not fixing this problem with the current setup and that is my message tonight,” Modestow said. “The system in which we have to meet these capital needs is broken right now. We’re not going to be able to meet those needs the way we’re doing now.
Currently, the budget for Union 38 school district does not include capital improvements. Meanwhile, Sunderland’s capital budget covers the entire city, but does not set aside money specifically for the school. The discussion led Select board chairman Tom Fydenkevez to propose that the district determine an annual maintenance cost so that a designated investment fund can be established.
“To do it right, you need to identify how much you need per year to maintain the school,” Fydenkevez told Modestow. “I like this idea.… It is to be used for capital expenditure. You designate money and it is going to be used for that reason.
Another option Modestow offered was to potentially take out a joint loan with Sunderland if the city already had capital improvement ideas.
“I wanted to bring this to your attention because I’m wondering if the city has any other facility plans… that they want to consolidate and possibly make a loan,” Modestow said. “I wanted to put it on your radar because it achieves a bit greater reach than the school committee alone can handle and we’re going to have to work together. “
Modestow highlighted the need to replace glycol in sprinklers, a non-functioning intercom and a constantly breaking dishwasher as immediate school needs, but said much larger projects such as replacement windows and the installation of air conditioning in the gymnasium are on the horizon. Modestow said he expected the list “will continue to grow.”
Fydenkevez said a loan is not out of the question as Sunderland does not have “a lot of debt in town right now”. He said residents could be persuaded to take out a loan or designate money if the school can clearly identify projects that need to be addressed.
“We have paid off a lot of our debt over the past few years. We have the ability to talk to the citizens of our city and say, ‘Hey, this is going to set the school up for another 15, 20 years,’ ”said Fydenkevez. He added that it would be more convincing to make a list of repairs than to “come back every year and ask for an extra $ 50,000 for this or $ 30,000 for that” because “it is much more difficult than trying to do it all together “.
Modestow later said in an interview that the meeting was productive in outlining the particular challenges facing Sunderland Elementary School.
“It was the first step in starting the conversation to educate them about the needs of elementary school,” Modestow said by phone. “As the building ages, we start to get more and more expensive repairs. “
He said Sunderland Elementary School is at an age where a full renovation is not needed, but major repairs are starting to pile up. He noted that the other three elementary schools in Union School District 38 are not seeing a growing list of “same grade” repairs because they are brick.
“Their buildings are brick and this one is wood,” Modestow said. “It’s the honest truth.”
He clarified his statements at Monday’s meeting on the “broken” system for dealing with capital improvements and said the system is “broken for the number of repairs we have now.”
“We don’t have capital in the elementary budget. … We have been to town and this list is getting long enough, ”said Modestow,“ that we are not going to move things at an appropriate pace.