District talks replacement standards

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is exploring guidelines for repairs, replacements and improvements to standardize practices for the district.

During Board of Education work sessions on Monday, the district’s director of planning and operations, David May, presented replacement and improvement standards that provide guidance to administrators on if, and when, building components should be repaired or replaced.

“There has been a public perception, warranted or not, that the school district has been wasteful,” May said during the work session. “If we can point out that we have a system, we can show the public and increase the trust … and having consistency will bring stability. We’ll have a line in the sand and be able to say yes or no (to replacements).”

The standards, May said, were created on three guiding principals. The first is that older buildings are architectural examples of their time and don’t need extensive remodeling to portray an attractive, comfortable and dignified look.

Put plainly, “it’s okay for a building to look old,” May said. “The buildings we have are timeless.”

The second principal states that the life cycle of different building components shouldn’t be used as a reason for replacement.

“This is inaccurate and wasteful,” according to the document. “The only criteria used for replacing a component should be when it meets the written standards for replacement and is validated by onsite inspection.”

Instead, May said that a component’s life cycle should be used to anticipate future funding needs and to signal that the component should be evaluated more frequently.

“If an HVAC system is good for 20 years, we don’t just automatically replace it at 20 years,” May said. “We just look at it more closely.”

The third guiding principal argues that a set of standards allow for consistency and empowers administrators to make steadfast decisions, therefore taking out any emotional reason for prematurely replacing building components.

“All too often, personalities, perceptions and emotions play a greater role in making the decision to replace a building component rather than basing that decision on performance,” according to district documents.

“I think this is encouraging, to see the subjectivity be diminished,” said board member Lynn Hohl.

The standards cover a wide array of building components from shrubs to boilers and detail guidelines for evaluating the condition of an item and what action to take based on the condition.

For example, when paved concrete is beginning to show defects with a few hairline cracks and some chipping, it’s classified as in “very good” condition. The concrete is satisfactory, meaning it is within acceptable limits, when cracks have spread and widened but more than 75 percent of the surface is without defects. In this case, replacement is not justified but the standards guide administrators to make necessary repairs and replace small sections when possible.

The concrete is in poor condition, with serious and extensive defects, when cracks in the concrete are numerous and extensive and the face of the concrete is rough. In “poor” condition, more than 50 percent of the surface has defects. According to the standards, under these circumstances replacing the concrete is recommended action.

“Only the items that fall into the third level will be considered for replacement because that’s when you’re not throwing away value,” May said.

If a component does fall into the “poor condition” category, it will be put on a list for replacement, May said. Once on the list, issues are prioritized and a work plan is created, but prioritization is also standardized.

“I don’t want to make politics part of the determining factor of when something is replaced,” May said. “School size is not part of the formula. It’s equal for all.”

The standards are not yet adopted and are still a work in progress. May told the board he is still open to input, but proposes that the concept and guidelines be approved for implementation for the next budget cycle. He also said that he has had discussions with the Kenai Peninsula Borough maintenance department to ensure that everyone is “on the same page.”

“We’re heavily prioritizing communication,” said Superintendent Sean Dusek during the work session. “There is a lot of discussion of extending the life of our buildings and we need to do better with what we’re doing with our existing buildings.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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