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Renovation at RHS is a necessary step

By Staff | Jun 4, 2010

This letter is written in response to Jim Day’s letter “Vote ‘No’ on School Board Bond Issue” that appeared in the May 29 issue of the Pierce County Tribune.

While I agreed with several of the points that Mr. Day made regarding the need for improvements to the Rugby Jr.-Sr. High School, I feel that some of Day’s reasons for encouraging a no vote must be addressed.

Day states, “I was dismayed to learn that, provided the local bond issue passes, local contractors and trademen would probably be left out in favor of outside contractors.” I also was in attendance at the May 24 open house that the school board held and heard the question asked of Mr. Lind and the architects that dealt with the use of local contractors.

I don’t remember the answer to that question being, “Local contractors and tradesmen will probably be left out in favor of outside contractors.” As I recall, it was stated several times that since this project is a major renovation of a public entity the school must accept and award the contract to whichever contractor submits the lowest, responsible bid. North Dakota Century Code 48-01.2 deals with public improvements bids and contracts and subsection 6 states: “Multiple prime bids for the general, electrical, and mechanical portions of a project are required when any individual general, electrical, or mechanical contract or any combination of individual contracts is in excess of one hundred thousand dollars.” In short, this means that the school must accept the lowest bidder that submits a responsible bid which meets the specifications set forth in the notification of bids. The school is in no way trying to exclude local contractors from being awarded the contracts for this project, but the school must also follow state law.

Day also makes several points on repairs that he feels are necessary to improve the learning environment for Rugby students. He talks about the heating and air exchange systems, the lighting and others. Day then states that “asbestos is a problem in the ‘1955’ building.” The asbestos is the major hurdle that must be overcome in order to complete any type of major renovation in this portion of the building. The asbestos in the 1955 wing has been encapsulated already, which Day states should be done. In order to do the major portions of the work to the 1955 wing, the asbestos first must be abated, which means bringing in the properly trained contractors to seal the building and take out the asbestos.

The ceiling that runs the entire length of the 1955 wing contains asbestos and above this ceiling is the corridor that houses many of the systems that Day points out needs repair, i.e., heating and electrical.

Day also states, “None of the floor tiles I saw, showed no chips, cracks or other evidence that they are friating.” Day, you may not have witnessed this during the open house, but I can guarantee you that there are cracks in the floor in the 1955 wing and in the science rooms, both areas contain asbestos containing floor tiles. I worked for the State of North Dakota for two years as an environmental scientist and I can assure you if floor tile contains asbestos and it is cracking, the asbestos is becoming airborne.

Day also states, “Workers who have mesothelioma generally have worked many years in environments where repeated exposure is prevalent.” Day, I hope you are not saying that just because kids go through this school in six years that they are not at risk for getting mesothelioma. Why should the parents of this community even have to think that they may be exposing their children to any amount of asbestos when they send them to school?

And let’s not forget about the teachers. Two teachers this year retired after over twenty years working in the 1955 wing and their classrooms were just down the hall from the crack shown in the photo. In reality, this crack probably developed this school year and yes, no one will likely get mesothelioma from this crack, but again it shouldn’t need to be an issue, it should be fixed.

There is another issue with the asbestos in the ceiling in the 1955 wing. Generally, in older ceilings it is the “popcorn” that textures the ceiling that contains asbestos. If you look very closely as you walk down the 1955 wing, you can see marks from students fingers where they have jumped up and swiped their hand across the ceiling. If anyone has done this to a “popcorn” ceiling, you know that you will be covered with the popcorn when you are done. Friable asbestos?

The point I am trying to make with the asbestos isn’t that the students and teachers are at an immediate risk of getting cancer from the asbestos, but that in general, before any type of major renovations can be started in the 1955 wing, the asbestos that is there must be abated.

One last point that I would like to address in Day’s letter is this statement, “By the school boards own admission, the student population has declined. I don’t see families of student-aged children lining up at the city limits waiting to get here, nor do I see that in the future.”

Yes the school enrollment has declined since 1955, but, also by the school board’s own admission, the school program has changed considerably since 1955.

Laws have changed that required schools to provide more to the fewer children. Adding more programs such as special education, career counseling, computer technologies, etc. requires more space. I also don’t agree that because there are not school children lined up at the city limits to come in that we should disregard the needs of the current students of Rugby. Don’t let the declining enrollment foster a death mentality, do what is right for the students of this community. By improving the school, the community will be better able to attract new people here. I moved here a year ago and brought three children, two of whom go to school and the third will start in a couple of years.

Don’t let the school be the reason that some families choose not to move to Rugby.

Benz is a teacher at Rugby Jr.-Sr. High

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