News

Repair or Replace? The Maintenance Dilemma at MJHS

Posted on: August 22, 2019

In May, the district proposed a bond issue to fund the completion of the district’s facilities master plan. While the bond issue didn’t pass, it did shine a light on some important issues and challenges that the district currently faces. One such issue is the current state of the junior high, and the district’s efforts to maintain the building while planning for its replacement.

This year marks Milford Junior High School’s 57th anniversary. It opened in 1962 as the district’s high school and later became the junior high. While a four-classroom wing was added in 2010, much of the building remains just as it did when the school opened in the early 1960s.

In 2000, Milford Schools partnered with OFCC and members of the community to develop a facilities master plan (FMP). The purpose of the FMP was to bring the district’s facilities into the 21st century. 

During that process, OFCC and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) assessed MJHS. They rated the building’s condition as “POOR,” and OFCC estimated that the cost to renovate the building would be nearly as much as the cost to replace it.

The analysis also identified components that need to be replaced, including:

  • Heating system

  • Roofing

  • Windows

  • Interior lighting

  • Security system

  • Fire alarm and suppression system

  • Furnishings

  • Technology

  • And more

 

OFCC Assessment of MJHS

OFCC Assessment of MJHS

The Maintenance Challenge at MJHS

Jeff Johnson, Milford’s Director of Business and Operations, recently sat down to discuss MJHS and the maintenance challenges in the building.

What’s the biggest challenge the district faces with regard to the junior high?

Really it’s the uncertainty surrounding the building. People forget that this building was first identified for replacement over a decade ago. The district has been actively working with OFCC to try and get funding for more than five years. That means that every repair decision is influenced by the fact that this building is going to be replaced at some point in the near future.

Obviously, we maintain the building and do everything we can to keep students and staff safe and comfortable. But we have to think long and hard when it comes to big repairs in that building.

What are some of the types of maintenance that the district currently performs at MJHS?

We regularly address issues that affect student safety and students’ ability to learn. Our maintenance people are constantly there fixing lights, ceiling tiles, wiring, really anything that impacts the day-to-day operations of the school.

Or things like bathroom door locks?

That’s a great example. We rely on the people in the buildings to report these issues to us. Bathroom issues are tricky because a lot of kids, especially at that age, won’t report bathroom issues to a teacher. Staff may use different restrooms so they don’t know about the issue and don’t report it.

In the spring, a parent let us know that there were approximately 20 broken locks in the bathrooms that were creating privacy issues. We ordered new locks immediately and replaced the broken locks as soon as the new parts arrived.

We need parents, students, and staff to report those things to us. I would encourage any parent to please let us know if their child mentions maintenance issues in any of our buildings. We do our best to address those as quickly as possible.

You said that the uncertainty around the building makes it difficult to plan maintenance. How so?

It’s challenging to know whether to repair or replace something when you don’t know how much longer the building will be open. The roof is a good example. A couple of years ago we decided to address the roofing issue. Technically, the building needs a new roof. But is it wise to put a new roof on a building that is scheduled to be replaced? Ultimately, we patched the roof.

We have issues with the ceiling tiles. In a perfect world, we could put a drop ceiling through the whole building, but again, do we make that kind of investment in a building that has been scheduled for replacement for more than a decade?

Is it accurate then to compare the junior high to an old car that you’re about to trade in? You do the basic maintenance, but you think twice before major repairs?

Yes, that’s a fair analogy. With an old car, you get your regular oil changes. You change the filter and the fluids and keep the car safe and running smoothly. But you’re probably not going to replace the transmission. That’s where we are with the junior high.

What are some of the maintenance issues that could arise at the junior high in the next few years?

I can’t predict the future, but in a building that old there are a lot of things that could arise. There are the heating system and air conditioning. There could be electrical issues.

One possible problem is the bleachers in the gymnasium. The metal support beams have been welded and repaired so many times that the bleachers don’t extend smoothly anymore. We may reach a point where the bleachers stay extended at all times. That’s not ideal, but those are the kinds of decisions we’re facing.

What would help resolve some of these maintenance challenges?

Certainty around the future of the building. If we had a defined end date on the building, we could make more informed decisions about maintenance. Without that, though, we have an open-ended obligation, which makes it difficult to plan repairs and maintenance.