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Rats, cats and fleas among woes plaguing Montgomery schools

December 23, 2018

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Millions of dollars are needed to tackle a long list of maintenance issues in Montgomery’s public schools, school officials said.

Rats have roamed the halls of a middle school. Cats were getting into another local school, leaving behind fleas that hatched eggs in the carpet, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

Problems that vary in severity plague most of Montgomery’s public schools, but the district’s $3.1 million maintenance budget doesn’t go far enough to take care of the aging buildings, the Montgomery newspaper reported.

“The schools still have great bones — they would withstand a lot. But just like any house, there needs to be constant upkeep and maintenance and that takes money,” said Chad Anderson, the school district’s executive director of operations.

Students occupy 54 schools, but the maintenance department is responsible for maintaining 65 buildings.

The school system is drastically underfunded in comparison to any Alabama district of similar size, the newspaper reported.

An estimated $200 million in deferred maintenance is, in Anderson’s opinion, a low figure.

“You can put a blindfold and point,” Anderson said about finding a problem in the schools.

It’s impossible to know the exact cost for a lot of the work that needs done without opening the space up to begin, he said, comparing the possibilities to Pandora’s Box.

An estimated 30 schools need new roofs — some so old that they really can’t be repaired anymore, Anderson and Maintenance Director Lee Mackenzie said. Workers keep patching, just to find leaks a few feet over. In addition to the high cost of a new roof, there aren’t a lot of companies in Montgomery that choose to work on the flat roofs that most schools have, elevating the cost even more.

More than half of the maintenance department’s budget is spent repairing and replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. It has only been three years since the first-floor bathrooms at Sidney Lanier High School were renovated, yet the plaster from the ceiling is cracking, as is the paint along the walls. The piping in the bathrooms above hasn’t been updated and is leaking, causing the ceiling issues. The HVAC system allows moisture into the building, creating a humid atmosphere and the paint to peel.

Pointing to an area missing a large chunk of plaster in the Lanier High auditorium, Mackenzie explained that water seeps into the building’s bricks from the outside. The more it rains, the more the plaster falls.

The district’s newer buildings could also face a state of poor condition if the maintenance department continues to run ragged dealing with emergency issues at the older buildings, Anderson said.

When it comes to motivating teachers and students, “it’s not only what’s going on in the classroom, but the classroom itself,” Anderson said.

“We want to do better for the kids. but it takes funding,” he said.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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