School may be out for the summer, but repairs are a year-round endeavor for the maintenance staff at the Humboldt County School District (HCSD). A majority of the repair work involves painting and clean up at each of the schools and involves not only the District’s maintenance staff but also teachers and students.
HCSD Superintendent Dr. Dave Jensen said the major projects for this summer is upgrading Lowry High School’s electrical system to be able to install an HVAC system and exterior repairs and painting at French Ford Middle School.
“With the Lowry high school electrical,” Jensen said, “we have started, over the past couple of years, having issues in our old gym with the heating system.” Jensen added that several years ago one of the motors in heating system motors seized in the middle of a basketball game causing the unit to overheat. As result the gym was evacuated. “We're on 35-plus year old systems that are starting to fail, but it's not as simple as just buying new units and dropping them in because now we'd be putting in heating and cooling [units] and we need increased electrical capacity.” Jensen said in order to prepare for the modern systems, the electrical needed to be upgraded.
French Ford Middle School is getting a facelift. Contractors are working on repairing and retexturing the exterior insulation finishing system (EFIS). Jensen said the school has not had any exterior work of magnitude since its construction in 1990. “When I moved here in 1996, if you drove by French Ford, the colors that are on the exterior were bright and vibrant” but time and the Nevada sun has bleached the colors out. In addition to the harsh Nevada climate, there are places around the exterior that need patching. “If you were to take a walk around French Ford Middle School, we've got holes in the plaster, whether it's a door that swung open or kids throw a ball against it and it would knock a hole in it, so we've got to completely redo and patch reinsulate some areas, and bring back the vibrancy of the colors.”
To help the district’s maintenance crew complete repairs, the district has a summer work program for students who are interested. Jensen said this year the district has 14 individuals who are either current or former students and a couple of staff members who are put on projects. The projects include painting, groundskeeping, or simple electrical work such as running wire.
“We don't anticipate building any new schools for the foreseeable future,” Jensen said, “So our commitment is to do everything we can to maintain and protect our existing facilities. It's difficult when the median age is 58 years.”
Jensen said the program serves a number of purposes: It gives students an opportunity to gain experience, skills and money, while it frees up the maintenance staff to tackle more complex projects. “We pay (students) $10 an hour so it's a decent wage,” Jensen said, “and most of these kids are just preparing to go to college or will go in a couple of years, or are in their first year of college, so they've got some opportunity to make some money to help them with their college or career choices.”
All student workers are supervised by district staff. “We have two of our teachers that we have supervise,” Jensen said. One does the painting supervisor Mr. (Brian) Myers and Mr. (James) Simonsen does the grounds supervision. That way the kids have somebody they can turn to if they need anything.”
Myers, who teaches English at Winnemucca Junior High School, said, “It's a good program. It gives the kids a skill because painting is a skill.” Myers says he’s been painting since he was 13 years old and painted his way through college. He noted that painting isn’t easy. “People think you just go buy your stuff at the store and go painting, but it's a little more involved than that.”
The other major infrastructural change the district will be implementing will be bringing high speed broadband to all the schools throughout the district. Jensen announced that the district received a grant for $467,000 to upgrade fiber optics and to create microwave connections to the rural schools. “We've had fiber for years in the district in order for to facilitate our instructional models, but the fiber is now obsolete,” Jensen said. He expects the broadband project to be completed in time for the 2019-2020 school year.