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Board hopes to plug leaky school ceilings
Wanda Bullock looks at damage in a closet at Gainesville Middle School caused by a leaking roof.

In other business

  • The Gainesville school board unanimously voted to keep its pre-kindergarten program for the 2009-10 school year.
  • As part of its budget scrutiny, the board reviewed the merit and cost of the system’s pre-k program that serves 180 4-year-old children and employs nearly 20 educators. Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said although state lottery funds provided nearly $639,000 for the system’s pre-k program last year, it cost the system about $11,100 to supplement pre-k personnel expenses.
  • In a 4-1 vote, the board also decided to keep the system day care program at its Tuesday meeting. The program serves system employees’ children who are younger than 4 and operates at a cost to the system. Board member Sammy Smith dissented.
  • “This is a lot of bang for our buck,” Gainesville school board Chairman David Syfan said of the pre-k and day care programs. “This is something the board should support because it helps us meet our ultimate goal of educating children.”

Jessica Jordan

While most North Georgians reach for umbrellas on rainy days, the students and teachers of several Gainesville schools reach for buckets to place under leaky roofs.

Five of the Gainesville school system’s seven schools are in need of costly roof repairs or replacements, said Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer. School board Chairman David Syfan said the board is hoping the federal economic stimulus package will provide some funds to finance roof repairs that he estimates will cost between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

“We have like eight places in the gym where kids run and put trash cans,” said Kim Davis, assistant principal of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. “The kids know where to put the buckets and where not to sit in the morning, because there will be puddles.”

Davis and Susan Culbreth, principal of Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, said the leaky roof problems have almost become a way of life for students and educators.

“First of all, you don’t want to damage any equipment and then you don’t want any water to drip on a child’s head,” Culbreth said. “... We understand our main mission is to educate the children, so we just try our best to work around it.”

Syfan said administrators have done a “wonderful job of adjusting and being very patient about repairs.”

With the system trying to dig its way out of an estimated $5.8 million deficit and bracing for a 3 percent budget cut in state funds next year, it’s hard to come up with extra money for roof repairs.

Dyer said the current Gainesville Middle’s roof is in the worst shape and needs to be completely replaced, and Fair Street and Enota need significant roof repairs. The old Gainesville High School gym and Centennial Arts Academy also need roof repairs, she said.

Syfan said replacing the roof on the current Gainesville Middle building will be the system’s most expensive roof repair, likely costing about $1 million. The system’s middle school students will move into a new Gainesville Middle School building on Jesse Jewell Parkway in August, but the system’s nine pre-kindergarten classes will move into the current Gainesville Middle building on Woods Mill Road.

Centennial, which Dyer classifies as the least troubled roof of the five schools, is already being repaired.

In late January, the Gainesville school board selected Dyer Roofing to make $29,000 in roofing repairs to Centennial Arts Academy. Federal funds from a $42,000 Qualified Zone Academy Bond will finance the project. The remainder of the bond will be spent on insulation, ceiling tiles and mold removal at the elementary school.

Christine Brosky, grant writer for Gainesville schools, said the federal funds were earmarked for repairs at Centennial only.

Syfan acknowledged the marital relationship between Merrianne Dyer and Larry Dyer, president of Dyer Roofing, at the Jan. 27 meeting when the board awarded the contract to Dyer Roofing. Syfan said Dyer Roofing’s bid was “by far” the lowest of three project bids submitted to the board.

Merrianne Dyer said once the repairs at Centennial are complete, the repairs should keep the school waterproof for about five to eight years, allowing the board to focus on the four other problematic roofs.

Syfan said the board is unable to initiate additional roof repairs until learning exactly how federal stimulus funds will trickle down. He said the stimulus has allocated more than $6 billion for school repairs and modernization nationwide.

“Our best guess is that hopefully we’ll get around $1.8 million ... and that’s dependent on a lot of ifs,” Syfan said.

To prepare for the funding, he said the system’s maintenance and operation personnel are assessing the roof problems and associated repair costs at each school.

Dyer said in an e-mail the board has yet to determine whether it will use the stimulus funds to replace one roof and repair others, or do sections of Enota, Fair Street and Gainesville Middle all at once. She said the school board will consult its school governing councils before making a final decision.