North Bend Eagle



Maintenance staff has little time for summer relaxation

by Elizabeth Gillis
published 8/6/08

Ah summer, a time spend languishing in the sun near the swimming pool, or a ball field, or behind a mower. A time when schools shut down and everyone once held inside is freed on condition of return three months later.

The point of return is quickly approaching for North Bend Central Public School students, less than two weeks to be more specific. However, the hallways of the elementary and high schools were not the wastelands many students, and even adults, may imagine them to have been.

“Parents often ask if I’m enjoying my ‘summer break,’” said Kevin Ferguson, head of high school maintenance. “I just laugh because summer is our busiest time of year.”

Indeed, the schools’ maintenance teams were just beginning the hardest and most demanding thirteen weeks of their jobs on May 15 as students cleared their lockers and teachers cleared their bulletin boards.

In the elementary school Rick Hobza and assistant Karma Amison began the summer by moving all desks, chairs, bookshelves, rugs and boxes out of the classrooms, creating narrow hallway paths barely resembling the open halls students are accustomed to. They then meticulously scrubbed the walls, waxed the floors and made needed repairs. Then they moved everything back into place and began the same routine in the hallways and bathrooms. It’s easy for such a list to sound simple in print, but like anybody who writes a to-do list of summer chores knows, listing does little justice to the task to be completed.

The high school’s maintenance team of Ferguson and assistant Ed Kroenke followed a similar schedule with the trade-off of shampooed carpets for waxed floors in most classrooms. Ferguson and Kroenke also allowed two and a half days a week for mowing and maintaining the 27 acres of ground contained on the high school campus, buildings excluded and softball diamond included, as well as arranging or conducting regular vehicle maintenance and inspections and replacing approximately $1,000 worth of bleacher boards.

The summer maintenance duties do not end when they’ve completed these daunting annual tasks, rather they are merely beginning. In addition to general repairs, there are major projects to contend with almost every summer.

As most people are aware, the elementary school has added two classrooms onto the existing building. Having been completed within the last week, Hobza and Amison have been busy constructing furniture and ensuring that all new structures meet the needs of teachers and students as well as state and federal codes.

The addition of new rooms has also meant changes in the structure and organization of older areas and classrooms. To accommodate the new hallway going to the addition and the transformation of the former music room into a classroom, Hobza built a new wall and a mobile storage shelf.
Additionally, many classrooms are in the process of digital updates in the form of ceiling-mounted projectors and smartboards, all of which require time, muscle and technical ability to install, not to mention the absence of students and teachers.

While the high school underwent no major structural changes this summer, there was a little matter of building and installing 135 lockers. The locker replacement was a multiple-year project because of the shear quantity of time it takes to create a working locker from the pieces in which it arrives.

“My fingers ached for days,” Ferguson said while inspecting the inside of a completed locker with Kroenke.

“You wouldn’t believe how many little screws are in each one,” Kroenke said. “You know, we never did count them.”

He paused to consider taking an accurate tally, at which point Kroenke and Ferguson collectively groaned at the thought and closed the locker audibly relieved to have completed the project.

Ferguson and Kroenke also installed the new marquee at the entrance to the school. Though it appears to most people to be an easy replacement, the new sign was neither a perfect fit nor capable of running without the help of electricity borrowed from the near-by pond.

Now, as the aforementioned 2008-2009 school year looms ever nearer, the projects have begun to wane. And collectively Ferugson, Kroenke, Hobza and Amison are ready.

“Sometimes,” Ferguson said, “you look forward to school starting just to slow things down.”

Hobza and Ferguson said that while the maintenance personnel do a lot of the physical work involved in summer projects, it’s really the school board and community members who enable the projects which keep the elementary and high schools in above working order by providing modern, well-maintained equipment built to last rather than “get-by.”

Both also cited the level of pride and respect most students have for their schools and the level of relative stress this relieves from the maintenance staff’s daily and summer schedules. Ferguson guesses fewer that than five-percent of students disrespect the school and therefore cause more work. Most students, he said, are responsible and helpful in maintaining their schools.

For now, NBC maintenance personnel scurry around making last-minute preparations for the return of hundreds of students and teachers. After all, “summer break” is almost over.

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