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Could life safety renovations impact End Zone Garden?

Ten-year facilities review indicates need for new bleachers, tennis courts, and more

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Mike Reyes, Staff Reporter

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Even before finding out that the school would receive $9 million in grant money, the RB board and administration have been aware that the building is in need of several life safety renovations, one of which includes updating or replacing the football bleachers.  However, the potential replacement of the bleachers could impact another recent but significant feature of the school grounds:  the End Zone Garden.

The End Zone Garden is the school garden that was installed during the 2011-12 school year with lots of help from teachers, volunteers, and the SEE team.  The primary purpose of the garden is to provide fresh, locally grown food for the cafeteria, allowing students to go to lunch and buy a salad made from food grown just outside the building doors.  However, planned renovations could conceivably mean big changes for the little garden.  The garden is located next to the existing football bleachers, and with the bleachers needing renovation as well as the tennis courts as well as a need for increasing parking at the school, the garden could have to move and there are not many convenient spots for it to relocate.

However, the decision-making process is still early and currently administration cannot tell if the garden will be impacted or not.  Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said, “In the big scheme of things, we’d like to be able to do the new repairs and the new additions and still have some type of garden, but right now we haven’t even started to do those designs.  I don’t know if the garden will be impacted or not.”

This process is in motion because the school board recently had a ten-year life safety survey done of the school grounds.  The survey is a review of the building that makes sure it is up to code, meaning that nothing could cause harm to students and that the building is deemed safe.  The survey, conducted by an architectural firm, looked at items like sprinklers, fire systems, roofing, the football stadium, and the bleachers.  If the architects sound something wrong on the survey, they identified whether the item needed to be fixed immediately, over five years, or over ten years.  The life safety survey then was submitted to the state, which reviewed and approved the report, clearing the school district to complete the repairs before the next survey.

According to Skinkis, most schools have a long-term facilities plan to make sure that life safety problems do not arise.  Skinkis said, “A facilities plan is something most districts have.  This district did not have that [when I arrived].  A facilities plan is a schedule of repairs and maintenances that have to be done to facilities in your district.”

During RB’s life safety survey, architects noted several problems that need to be fixed including updating tennis courts, patching roofs that were not included in the 2006 renovation, fixing problems with Shuey Stadium and its bleachers, and improving flood control for the entire building.

Many of the problems center around Shuey Stadium.  The stadium, which was built in 1946, is aging.  Only the field itself was renovated during the whole building renovation that began in 2006.  As with any aging structure, problems have begun to crop up.  Skinkis noted that there were tripping hazards and that concerns existed about the durability of the concrete.  The rest rooms for the stadium are not functional and the ramps into the bleachers are not fully ADA compliant, meaning that they have limited handicapped accessibility.  Skinkis also indicated that sprinklers need to be installed for the press box and the stadium locker rooms.

“There are pieces of concrete falling off in the [stadium] locker room,” Skinkis said, “where we have students getting changed every day.”

The life safety issues also impact the tennis courts, where students have already received some minor injuries.

“The tennis courts have not been repaired in over 30 years and we’ve had some students trip and fall,” Skinkis said.

Not only is the board trying to fix urgent problems, but also to look ahead to potential problems in the future.  Skinkis said, “We need some flood control, both in our basement and across the street, so that when we get these heavy rains there are some solutions.”  Last year, RB had to close its doors due to April flooding for the second time in recent history.

Skinkis noted that, depending on the problem, it might be more cost effective to replace items rather than renovating them.  The bleachers could be such a case.  The recent addition of $9 million in grant money makes these life safety fixes more affordable.  Without the grant, the school board would have likely had to float life safety bonds, which cannot be repealed by referendum, to pay for mandatory renovations.

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Free of Bull, Full of Bulldogs
Could life safety renovations impact End Zone Garden?