Leader Blues

Monday, February 02, 2009

TOP STORY>>Schools have leaky roofs

By NANCY DOCKTER
Leader staff writer

Leaky roofs at Cato Elementary School and Northwood Middle School are slated for repairs, say officials at Pulaski County Special School District.

The district will ask for bids within four weeks and work should begin in the spring to replace the roof over the west addition at Cato. For now, temporary patches have stopped the leaks in the hall affecting a few classrooms in the back of the Cato school building, said Jerry Holder, a school facilities official for the district.

“A couple of classrooms, you had to have umbrellas, but James Warren (PCSSD facilities supervisor) has been very supportive and worked real hard to do anything he can,” said Danny Gilliland, PCSSD board member, Zone 5.

Gilliland lauded district officials for sending out crews to Cato after rains to dry and clean moldy carpets and to try to patch roof leaks.

“Whenever Cato called, they’d be out there immediately,” he said.

At Northwood, an internal gutter under the roof will be sealed to stop leaks into the library. Past repairs were effective for awhile, but rains are again creating mold, ruining books, and saturating the carpet in some parts of the library, according to parents and school personnel.

“Every time you get a hard rain, you lose books,” said Northwood principal Veronica Perkins. “Along the back wall, it is going to get very wet, and have water squishing under your feet.”

“There is a leak, and it has been put on our list of things to be done as soon as we get a break in the weather,” said Holder.

The roofs at both schools have been leak-prone because of their low pitch, which causes water to collect and seep through any opening.

The original building at Cato was built in three phases. The roof over the original section was replaced a few years ago. The roof over the third section does not leak, but to be prepared, the district is exploring costs for its replacement.

The new roof on the west addition will be a plastic membrane, “kind of like a swimming pool liner,” Holder said. It is guaranteed to last 15 years.

Northwood’s faulty roof has a long history of causing water to accumulate in light fixtures and ceiling panels to sag, some say. Now retired Northwood maintenance supervisor Mike Steele, worked at the school when it opened in 1980 until 2004. He recalls that the metal roof leaked wherever there is a change in pitch, seams, or cuts to insert a fan or vent.

“It has leaked from day one,” Steele said, adding that the district repeatedly sent maintenance crews to patch the roof. That would help some, but the problem has never gone away entirely.

“I believe it needs some professional help,” Steele said. “It is beyond the scope of what the maintenance crews can do.”

Warren said budget constraints make it impossible to fix everything at once at every facility in the district. According to one study by the state, he said, all the needed repairs would cost the district $300 million.

“That is a lot of repairs, and I don’t get but a very small amount of money each year to make repairs,” Warren said. “If we don’t pass the millage and get the correct amount of money to fix all the things that need to be fixed, we will continue to put Band-Aids on buildings.”

Leaky roofs are an ongoing issue for the district, Gilliland said. Even the new Chenal Elementary School has some roof leaks, he noted.

“That is a brand new school, and its roof leaks. I was just shocked. You’d be hard pressed to find one without leaks. They (the district) are always working on trying to get them done.”