(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
EAST PRAIRIE -- Severe storms that swept through East Prairie last month only added to the already deteriorating roofs at some of the East Prairie R-2 school buildings.
School district officials were already aware the roofs at the high school were in bad shape. Droopy ceiling tiles, holes in the ceilings and skylights and cracks on top of the roofs are only a few of the visible signs of the 50-year-
old roof systems at the high school.
A water pump even sits on a section of the high school roof to drain off standing water after heavy rains, and rubber tires have made a home on top of the ag classroom so the roof doesn't blow away.
"We're in an emergency state of repair," East Prairie R-2 Superintendent Scott Downing said. "You can only patch for so long before you start losing structural integrity."
When it rains really hard, mops and buckets are placed in corners of the locker areas in the high school because the water can fill up in the hallways.
Extensive leaking from the roof is causing potential health risks from the moisture, school officials said.
"If there's a leak, we fix it. But as soon as we fix one place, it leaks in another place," said East Prairie High School principal Steve Douglas.
But the need to replace all roof systems at the high school -- with the exception of the cafeteria -- is just one reason the district's board of education placed a $2.75 million, no-tax-increase bond issue on Tuesday's ballot.
"Anybody who walks down the halls or outside the school can see there's a need, and they'd vote yes," Douglas said.
Voters will consider Proposition Two which, if approved, would authorize the district to borrow $2.75 million in the form of an interest-free loan from the state called Qualified Zone Academy Bonds. A four-sevenths majority is needed for passage.
"The interest earned will be paid back after each year so when it's all said and done, we will have paid $2.33 million instead of $2.75 million," Downing said.
The last bond issue approved by voters in East Prairie was in the late 1990s for the purpose of remodeling and adding on to Martin Elementary.
The district's existing tax levy of $3.10, which is set to expire in 2012, would stay the same if the issue passes, and the tax would be extended for another nine years.
"If the issue doesn't pass, we'll have to dip into our balances and we are all aware of the state budget issues," Downing said. "We have strong balances now, but we don't want to use them. To pass this would be a heck of savings for our taxpayers."
Roof replacement at the junior high, which sustained damage during a storm last month, is also included in the proposal. In addition, the district will upgrade and install several new air conditioning and heating units (including the high school gymnasium) with more energy efficient models.
Many of the units have exceeded their functional life, school officials said. The funds would allow the district to replace HVAC that is beyond life expectancy, guarantee energy savings, increase comfort and provide a better, healthier learning environment, Downing said.
Also proposed in the project is the replacement of windows and doors at the high school and Doyle Elementary. The district intends to replace existing single pane, energy inefficient windows with new dual glazed energy efficient windows in the industrial arts building, ag shop, ag shop classroom, central office, gym lobby and various locations at Doyle Elementary. Energy efficient exterior doors will be installed at the high school.
The proposition will allow the district to upgrade lighting and repair ceilings that have been damaged by the leaking roof systems. The upgrade to the lighting will replace existing noisy, less efficient metal halide lighting with new T-8 fluorescent lamps in the cafeteria, gymnasium, and weight room, Downing said. Ceiling upgrades will take place throughout the high school plant to address the possible health risk from moisture and mold potential.
"I encourage people to come out and support the school and vote for the school board and proposition like they have in the past," said Downing, adding any resident who would like a tour of the school or more information before they vote can contact him at the board office.
Douglas said East Prairie voters know historically, the district hasn't come to them for help if it wasn't needed.
"You shouldn't have to dump water off your roof," Douglas said. "I think once you have to dump water off the roof, you've got a problem."
If the issue passes, work could begin as early as next week and school would still be able to start on time in August, Downing said.
"We're not wasting taxpayers' money," Downing said. "This money would not go toward teachers' salaries. This is not going toward anything but building improvements."