The proposed Middle School and High School project addresses major repair issues at the two schools, in addition to adding space and addressing needs for 21st century education. These repair issues have been labeled as “deferred maintenance,” a name that can be misconstrued to imply that the School Department has deliberately chosen not to care for the buildings.
On the contrary, when the MSBA toured the schools, officials found the buildings in such good repair for their ages, they awarded North Reading an outstanding 1.91 out of 2 possible percentage points in funding for this excellent maintenance. For their efforts, School Facilities Chief Wayne Hardacker and his staff have earned North Reading about $2 million in additional state funding for the project, reducing North Reading taxpayers’ burden by that amount.
So, what is deferred maintenance for the schools? It is not fixing a simple leak or replacing a faucet or broken pipe. Deferred maintenance encompasses major work that would cost millions of dollars and need voter approval to address: new doors, windows, replacing rotted sills, properly insulating the buildings, upgrading fire protection, replacing two entire HVAC systems to be energy efficient and current, and more. Since this project has been in the works for years, it made sense to hold these expensive repairs until they were part of a project eligible for state funding.
North Reading officials didn’t ask voters for an override to address “deferred maintenance,” because the money would have gone toward bandages on buildings that are still too small for enrollment and still do not meet learning needs. As such, the MSBA would not offer state funding for these repairs. North Reading taxpayers would have been on their own, throwing good money after bad instead of addressing school issues properly and for the long term.