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Letter: Deferred maintenance doesn't mean failure to care for schools

To the Editor:

I must address the issue of deferred maintenance in the editorial “Time to Ask.” (R-E, April 9)

First, “deferred maintenance” has nothing to do with our “failure to care for property,” as the editorial states. It’s simply a term that describes the school district’s large, structural facility needs.

With the guidance of Kevin Johnson, our diligent and proactive director of buildings, we have thoughtfully ranked these expenditures in order of need.

For instance, although the Sunnyside Elementary boiler dates to 1956, it is low on our deferred maintenance list because our custodians have taken great care of it. On the other hand, the roof on the high school dates to 1994 and needs replacement as soon as possible. We are 10 years past the roof’s original 10-year warranty, again due to great care by our custodial staff.

Most school districts in Minnesota and across the country use “deferred maintenance” to describe their plan for facilities for which there is a funding gap.

The projects on the list tell a story about the gap between the money that’s needed, the money we have in the bank, and the approximately $650,000 the state gives us for the upkeep of all our buildings each year. Beyond facilities’ maintenance, that same $650,000 also covers equipment and technology.

Changes in how the state funds school facility repairs are currently under discussion at the Legislature. Until any substantial change is made, this remains Red Wing Public Schools’ challenge: to maintain, to the best of our ability, the schools that community funds have built.

Kevin Johnson and his staff save the district $200,000 every year in energy costs through careful monitoring.

In the meantime, I hope residents express their thanks to Kevin Johnson and our custodians whose conscientious stewardship has allowed us to avoid spending thousands so far on replacement projects.

Heidi Jones

Red Wing

Heidi Jones is chair of the Red Wing School Board.