Principal Sarge Truesdell unlocks a door at Soldotna High School underneath cracked siding on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Principal Sarge Truesdell unlocks a door at Soldotna High School underneath cracked siding on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a five-part series spotlighting conditions in Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools. A bond package on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot would fund 10 projects affecting 13 borough schools to address some of the district’s infrastructure issues.

Anyone who finds themselves looking up at the northwest facade of Soldotna High School will find a massive web of patched cracks. Similar, smaller cracks and bulges can be found in multiple spots outside the building, which was built in 1980. On top of being visually unappealing, those cracks are letting in water that is further damaging the building on a structural level.

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years, but school officials have their eyes on bond package that would provide SoHi with a more permanent fix.

The replacement of Soldotna High School’s exterior finishes is one of 10 elements outlined in a $65.5 million school improvement bond package that Kenai Peninsula voters will decide on during Tuesday’s municipal election. The total cost of replacing the siding is expected to be about $2 million, representing about 3% of the bond package’s total price tag.

KPBSD last fall identified $420 million worth of maintenance, including $166 million worth of “critical needs.” Many of the projects represent deferred maintenance, or projects that have been put off for an extended period of time. The project list would affect 13 of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s 42 schools.

Principal Sargeant Truesdell said Tuesday that the school siding’s cracks and patches are often the first thing visitors notice about the school. Some sections bulge out of the building, while other spots show where the damage has been painted over in the past. The scale of the problem, however, is not just limited to aesthetics.

Underneath the cracked siding is moisture damage caused by the water getting through, which causes leaks inside the school and can damage interior finishes. Previous localized patching work conducted by the borough has revealed failing moisture barriers behind the cracked siding, which has caused parts of the building’s steel frame to rust.

That damage is in addition to the water that pools between the exterior and interior portions of the building, which also causes leaks, and the safety hazard posed by cracked siding that falls off the building. The project scope as outlined in the bond package includes replacing the exterior siding to provide “exterior closure” designed for longevity.

Truesdell said he is worried about the unseen damage being caused by the moisture inside the siding.

“I think everybody who owns a home recognizes the damage that moisture does,” Truesdell said. “In a climate like we have, especially what we’ve had over the last two months when you can’t keep water out, the damage is just going to get extensively worse and extensively worse.”

Truesdell said he hopes that, if the bond package passes, the funding will provide for a more permanent solution to a problem that has historically been given temporary fixes. Even if the bond doesn’t pass, though, he said the Kenai Peninsula Borough will need to address the problem soon.

“It’s continuing to get worse inside there,” Truesdell said of the siding. “There will have to be a fix whether it’s a bond issue, or whether the borough has to figure out money to put to it, because there’s going to become a point in time where the damage will make the structure really bad.”

In pitching the need for new siding at Soldotna High School to voters located throughout the borough, Truesdell said SoHi’s high enrollment — more than 700 students — accounts for a significant portion of KPBSD’s annual budget. The siding project is not necessarily more important than any of the other items in the bond, he said, but the whole package affects communities across the peninsula.

“I really hope that the community educates themselves on the bond and recognizes that our superintendent and our borough crew would not be pushing it forward if it wasn’t absolutely necessary at this time,” Truesdell said. “This piece of the project is just one of those really high priority needs.”

More information about the school improvement bond up for consideration next month can be found on the Kenai Peninsula Borough website at kpb.us/mayor/prop2.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cracks split the siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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