East Elementary sidewalk construction

Mount Vernon City Schools used permanent improvement funds to replace the sidewalk in front of East Elementary this summer. It cost the district $14,241 to complete the project.

MOUNT VERNON – With Mount Vernon City Schools’ permanent improvement fund expected to double in the coming year, the district has been able to spend thousands this summer on much-needed facility improvement projects.

The projects range from replacing old windows to renovating the high school auditorium. Many are past-due fixes that the district can finally fund because it passed a replace-and-increase permanent improvement levy in May, superintendent Bill Seder said. Starting next year, the replacement levy will give Mount Vernon City Schools twice the amount it previously had to spend on capital improvement projects, maintenance and repairs to school property.

“That money is so beneficial to really start to be able to plan from this point out, to really meet the needs of what the community thinks is important in our facilities,” Seder said. “It’s really exciting to kind of see those things coming to fruition.”

Seder shared with Knox Pages the district’s priority list for facility improvements. Every principal in the district sent Seder and other key administrators a list of their school’s most urgent needs, ranked from “Priority 1” (most urgent) to “Priority 3” (least urgent). District officials also considered feedback from parents, students, staff and community members who participated in the online Thought Exchange last fall.

“Our goal really was to try to take everything off of the Priority 1 items and complete those this summer,” Seder told the school board last week.

According to the district’s organizational spreadsheet, 31 of the 38 Priority 1 items have been assigned and are “either completed or in the process of being completed.” Many of the district’s Priority 2 and Priority 3 projects have also been addressed this summer. Items still pending action are either labeled as “work in progress” or “postpone to a later date.”

The spreadsheet also listed prices for each project. The prices are largely quotes and estimates, Seder said, meaning they might come in slightly higher or lower than listed. Many of the projects with no cost estimate are ones that could be completed with in-house resources.

Seder said the district would like to see all of its Priority 1 projects completed by the start of the school year. However, some will take time. The district is looking at reforming the pick-up/drop-off system at Columbia Elementary, for example, which will require collaboration between the school district and city.

“We can’t just build a road in another 16 days,” Seder explained, but meetings between district officials and Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis have already begun. Projects like this, as well as many Priority 2 and 3 items, will be completed in the coming years.

Here’s what the district is working on at each of its eight buildings:

        

High school

Perhaps the hottest discussion point in the district’s online Thought Exchange was the high school auditorium. One of the top-rated comments on the discussion board claimed the auditorium “is embarrassing and needs significant upgrades.” Seder said the district heard the concerns “loud and clear.”

“We heard what the community said about the auditorium,” Seder said. “So we met with several contractors and we’re really close to making some decisions on new sound and lighting and curtains for the auditorium.”

The additions could cost upwards of $150,000, according to district estimates. While Seder said the district will not be able to expand seating in the auditorium at this time, the sound, lighting and curtains could be applied to a larger venue in the future.

“If we would happen to expand in the future the auditorium to include more [seating], we could use some of the same kind of things we’re looking at,” Seder said.

Of the projects already completed at the high school, the priciest has been the purchase of eight new pieces of classroom furniture for $52,000.

“Much of the high school classroom furniture is original and over 40 years old,” Seder said. “We are strategically replacing furniture eight rooms at a time. New furniture design allows for flexible seating.”

The district is also looking to spend nearly $25,000 on roof repairs for half of the downstairs classroom area. Seder said this entails the replacement of flashing, or the aluminum material placed in a roof’s joints to prevent water from seeping in, on 720 feet of roof.

“When rubber roofs age they stretch and shrink,” Seder said, “necessitating some work every 6 years or so.”

The district has received a quote for the project – $24,892 – and it will likely be completed next year.

Priority 1 items:

  • Roof repairs ($24,892) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Exterior doors ($80,000) – “work in progress”
  • Auditorium renovation ($150,000) – “work in progress”
  • Bottle fill stations ($3,489.15, courtesy of 2018 senior class) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Classroom furniture ($52,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Level butterfly rooms’ floor and ceiling (no cost estimate) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Remove wall to enlarge Chromebook lab (no cost estimate) – “postpone to a later date”

Priority 3:

  • Ceiling tile (no cost estimate – “tiles replaced as needed by custodians”) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

       

Middle school

Of the district’s eight buildings, the middle school had the fewest items on its wish list.

The priciest project at the middle school so far has been the addition of a security keypad for the playground door, which cost an estimated $5,000. Security has been a focus for the district this summer, Seder said, between camera installations and installing new lock sets.

The district aims to “go keyless” with all its buildings in the future, Seder added, which would allow employees to get in and out of school buildings with a key fob instead of a metal key. This eliminates the risk of keys getting lost or duplicated (which would result in the district needing to re-key the building).

Priority 1:

  • Security keypad for playground door ($5,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Push bars for doors ($4,800) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair roof leaks ($1,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New speakers ($162) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Sound system and clocks (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Gym floor recoating ($3,800) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

       

Columbia Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Parking lot/pick-up loop, in collaboration with city (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Replace sidewalk from gym door to parking lot ($2,362.50) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Replace air conditioners for two rooms ($1,200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Replace carpet in four rooms ($12,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Replace/repair three windows ($200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Replace window B ($1,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Reseed lawn ($200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Replace playground fence along back ($15,000) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Install six new lock sets (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 3:

  • Seven new cafeteria tables ($10,500) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Add sink in art room (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Repair loose restroom sinks (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair storage shed ($200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Add student cubbies (no cost estimate/PTO project) – “work in progress”
  • Awnings (no cost estimate) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Student chairs (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Playground asphalt (no cost estimate) – “postpone to a later date”

      

Dan Emmett Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Repair sidewalk to the playground ($162) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair modular restroom floors ($108.36) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New restroom partitions (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Install buzzer for handicap door ($2,830) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Pave parking lot ($10,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair blacktop at drop-off ($500) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 3:

  • Replace restroom locks and toilet seats ($177.24 combined) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Four new air conditioners ($2,800) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • One new drinking fountain ($1,300) – “work in progress”
  • New playground mulch ($4,020) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

        

East Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Replace sidewalks ($14,241) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Front entrance roof and arch (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Replace gymnasium ceiling ($14,500) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Clean 13 AC units (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New art room/music tables ($5,808) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New art/music room shelving ($700) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Secure basement steps (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Strip and wax gym floor ($500) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair basement restroom entrance (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Trim trees (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 3:

  • Resurface playground (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”

       

Pleasant Street Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Replace cafeteria ceiling ($9,196.77) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Replace cafeteria lighting ($1,500) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New concrete slabs at bus drop-off ($525) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Install new security cameras ($5,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Improve traffic flow, in collaboration with city ($10,000) – “work in progress”
  • Move shed (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 3:

  • Pave parking lot and playground ($90,440) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Key replacement for exterior doors, classrooms ($154) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New carpet in office area ($2,771.90) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Three new drinking fountains ($3,900) – “work in progress”
  • Replace restroom faucets ($4,564.35) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New playground fence ($22,925) – “postpone to a later date”

      

Twin Oak Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Check exhaust fans in office, hallway, clinic bathrooms (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Fix leak in maintenance room ($200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Install handrail on walkway from handicap parking space ($300) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repair retaining walls ($200) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2: None

Priority 3:

  • Pave lower parking lot ($16,800) – “work in progress”
  • Paint lines in parking lots ($10,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New playground mulch ($2,978.22) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

       

Wiggin Street Elementary

Priority 1:

  • Rebuilt A/C, heater blower motor to improve air quality ($1,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Mark steps with tape ($485) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Install handrail at main entrance ($1,000) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Repaint parking lot ($10,000) – “work in progress”
  • Install new lock sets (no cost estimate) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Fix window sill ($100) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • Complete air quality test following blower motor rebuild (no cost estimate) – “work in progress”
  • Install acoustic sound panels ($3,360 for materials only) – “work in progress”
  • Dumpster ($150) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”
  • New camera system ($11,375) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

Priority 2:

  • Replace gym doors ($800 for materials only) – “work in progress”

Priority 3:

  • Install AC in library ($5,000) – “postpone to a later date”
  • Replace library ceiling ($4,598.39) – “postpone to a later date”
  • New playground mulch ($1,793.01) – “either completed or in the process of being completed”

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.