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Burnside to get $1 million roof

By Mike Longaecker

When a ceiling leak is discovered inside Burnside Elementary School, Tom Renschen knows what lies ahead.

He and others must head to the roof, find the pin-sized hole somewhere in the 86,000-square-foot rubber surface, and seal it up.

"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Renschen, the school's head custodian, said Wednesday.

That's after tons of rocks covering the roof are shoveled away to find the tiny hole.

But that tedious and laborious process should be coming to an end for Burnside staff now that Red Wing school officials have approved funding for a new roof.

The Red Wing School Board on Monday agreed to borrow $1 million to replace the roof.

The district will get the money by selling capital facility bonds -- a funding mechanism officials say won't affect budget cuts approved last month.

Supt. Stan Slessor said the bonds will be paid off from reserve funds and won't burden taxpayers.

During the 2006-07 school year, maintenance staff repaired 23 leaks on the Burnside roof. So far this year, 21 holes have been fixed, said Kevin Johnson, the district's director of buildings and grounds.

"We're just waiting for an accident to happen," he told School Board members, adding that he doubted the surface could survive another winter without catastrophe.

The roof is five years past its expected 10-year life span, Johnson said. Over time, weather conditions have caused the rubber to stretch -- at times tearing away from the walls it is tethered to.

The project will replace the roof with one expected to last 40 years. Johnson said the new surface will consist of tar and tarpaper covered with rock.

The board's approval brought "a huge sense of relief," Burnside Principal Sheila Beckner said, especially considering the prospect of major water damage.

"We're all wise enough to know what one issue can cause down the road," she said.

Construction on the roof is expected to begin in about two months, though Johnson said possible delays could mean overlapping the start of next year's school year.