Six years of wear and tear on the Arizona state budget has also taken its toll on school facilities along the Colorado River, but local administrators see a window of opportunity to change that trend. The Colorado River Union High School District (CRUHSD) has one last payment to make on a $21-million dollar bond issue that was approved by voters in 2004, and administrators have begun discussing the possibility of asking voters for to fund another capital project, but this time, it’ll be more about maintenance and repair than new construction.
“We haven’t been able to maintain things because we haven’t had the capital funding from the state for six years,” said CRUHSD superintendent Riley Frei.
During this week’s high school board meeting at River Valley High School, board members were shown lists of maintenance projects that haven’t been completed at both of the district’s campuses.
Mohave High School principal Steve Lawrence and his staff outlined 21 items that are in need of repair or replacing. The list includes everything from an entirely new locking system for all of the doors on campus to resurfacing the parking lot to a new cooling system or additional cooling towers.
Lawrence told the school board that his campus still has only one cooling tower despite the fact that the campus has routinely expanded since its opening in 1969. In contrast, he said, Lake Havasu High School, which was built the same year and has also had numerous expansions, has three cooling towers.
One of the more pressing issues at Mohave is the need to replace all of the lighting on the various sports fields. The Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB) has given CRUHSD five years to replace or remove the existing lights after the structural integrity of many of the lights were found to be deficient during a recent survey of the facilities. The base of many of the light poles have become corroded and are in danger of failure. The SFB has agreed to work with the district to shore-up the structural integrity for the next five years, but after that, they must be replaced or removed.
A River Valley High School, the auditorium seems to be among the highest priorities. Principal Dorn Wilcox told the school board that most of the lighting in the auditorium is no longer functional. He also said the curtains have holes and many have been ripped. Some of the seats in the auditorium need to be repaired or replaced, according to Wilcox.
Frei said, some of the needed maintenance can be paid using funds awarded by the SFB, while others might meet special funding requirements under the district’s “adjacent ways” assessment. Still, Frei said, a majority of capital improvement funding really only comes from one of two places—the state legislature or by a voter-approved bond measure. While he fully believes it is the state’s responsibility to help school districts recover from the six years they’ve done without capital funding, Frei said, it’ll likely be up to the local residents to make the call.
“My child is no less important to the state of Arizona that the child that lives in Buckeye Union High School District, Tucson Unified, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale or any others,” Frei said. “She deserves every bit the resources that those districts can offer.”
“If the state isn’t going to provide, then it’s on us as a community to decide if it’s important,” he added, “and if it is, let’s move it forward.”
No formal decision was taken during this week’s school board meeting. Administrators will refine their maintenance lists and determine which projects are eligible for specific funding from the SFB or other grant opportunities. It’ll be up to the school board whether to put a bond measure on the ballot in 2016.