Consider lifecycle of CH-UH schools

The CH-UH school district has an aging building inventory. Excluding the fully renovated high school, the average building age in the district is 77 years. Even well-maintained buildings eventually need to be gutted, rebuilt, or replaced to continue to effectively serve their intended function.

Most buildings, depending on the quality and care of construction, have a lifecycle of 25 to 50 years. Good maintenance can extend the life of a building, some building systems last longer than others, and some systems are easier to maintain and replace. Old heating systems are inefficient and sometimes dangerous. (Anyone still have a coal furnace?) Electrical systems installed 50 years ago are insufficient to support current demands. Changes in code requirements can also lead to costly improvements.

Apart from the high school, not a single building in the district has had a full replacement of the original MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) systems since they were built.

Roxboro and Monticello were partially renovated, but, due to unforeseen conditions at the high school and the cost to renovate Wiley to serve as swing space, there was not enough funding available to fully replace all outdated systems in the middle schools as originally planned.

In the majority of the district’s school buildings, MEP systems are so out-of-date that replacement parts are difficult to obtain. The district’s maintenance staff has done a yeoman’s job with limited resources, patching systems as they fail, but as the district’s buildings and building systems continue to age, serious maintenance issues are becoming more frequent, and more challenging and expensive to resolve.

The CH-UH Board of Education needs to produce and implement a plan to fully renovate or replace the entire portfolio of buildings. It is a matter of when, not if, a major system’s failure will overwhelm the maintenance staff’s ability to address it, and a building will need to be closed to students.

The plan needs to include an ongoing strategy to ensure that no building in the district has an effective age greater than 50 years (meaning no buildings whose oldest MEP system has not been fully renovated within the last 50 years). The community and especially our students deserve a plan that will ensure safe, up-to-date learning spaces into the future.

John Janssen

John Janssen is a Heights High alum (class of ’84) and chair of the CH-UH Lay Facilities Committee.

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Volume 17, Issue 5, Posted 10:19 AM, 04.29.2024