(BOB MILLER) [Order this photo]
A $1.5 million bond issue will be on the ballot next month that would fund improvements to Oak Ridge Elementary School's main building and library wing, including a new roof, new central heating and air system, upgrades to electrical and plumbing systems, restroom renovation and replacement of some aging windows and surrounding paneling.
The age of the buildings is the main cause for the need of improvement. Both were built in the 1950s and have undergone various upgrades for maintenance through the years, but systems are ending their life spans, according to Oak Ridge superintendent Dr. Gerald Landewee. Roofs on both buildings are between 25 and 30 years old, panels surrounding windows are deteriorating, electrical needs of the buildings have changed because of more technology use in classrooms and plumbing systems are also in need of more work than routine maintenance can keep up with, Landewee said.
Landewee said if the bond issue passes that work could begin this summer. He doesn't anticipate last week's storms will push back the start of improvements. A possible tornado early Wednesday morning damaged the roof of the high school gym and other buildings, tore apart a concession stand, fences and bleachers on the school's baseball and T-ball fields and littered the campus containing the district's high school, middle school and elementary school with debris.
None of the money raised from the bond issue would be used to repair damage from the storms; the district's insurance will cover the costs.
"The community here has always supported the school," said Adrian Eftink, the elementary's principal. "That is one of the things we are most proud of. Anytime there has been a need, parents and the community have stepped forward and helped us."
Eftink said he is looking forward to the improvements because he believes classroom environments could improve for 160 students and 12 classroom teachers, especially when it comes to technology use.
"As we've increased technology in the building, the electrical system is trying to keep up," Eftink said. "Right now it's maxed out."
Electricity in the elementary runs on an aged fuse system instead of a breaker system, and that poses a hazard for student safety, he said. The system also has had a difficult time handling more power required in each classroom with the addition of smartboards and multiple computers.
Other systems in the building have been maintained and are in decent working condition, he said, but they are in the state that they need to be looked at for improvements so efficiency can be increased.
The buildings use aging window air conditioning units for cooling, which teachers say they will be glad to see go if the bond issue passes because of the noise.
"There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made all the time because of the heating and cooling," said Charlotte Findlay, a reading facilitator at the school.
Rooms often don't stay a constant temperature, she said, which can't be good for the district's energy use bills and can become uncomfortable for students and teachers, especially in rooms containing several computers, which become too hot.
Landewee said the timing of getting the issue on the ballot is important because interest rates are low for bonds, bids for work are competitive and the issue's passage would save the district from having to build an entirely new facility soon.
"At this point, it appears to be more cost-effective and responsible to renovate these buildings instead," he said.
How much longer will depend on which projects are ultimately approved and how much they end up costing.
The school district will soon send out information to voters detailing proposed projects, and informational open houses will be held at 7 p.m. March 8 and 1 p.m. March 11 at the elementary school.
4198 Route E, Oak Ridge, MO