Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 | 2:07 a.m.
There is a huge backlog of maintenance projects in the Clark County School District. As of July 31, the district had nearly 13,000 pending requests, more than triple the amount it had a year earlier.
As Emily Richmond reported in Wednesday’s Las Vegas Sun, budget cuts have created the backlog, delaying necessary work on a range of projects, including heating, air-conditioning and fire alarm systems.
School board members are expected to receive a report tonight detailing the situation. The district has cut $133 million from its maintenance budget, and that has left the schools struggling to keep up. It is not a pretty picture.
“Current levels of maintenance services are unsustainable and not in the long-term interests of the district,” said Paul Gerner, the district’s associate superintendent of facilities. Pushing off routine maintenance could result in larger costs in the future when the district is able to fix the problems.
Some schools are getting creative to deal with the shortage of custodial workers. The principal of Roy Martin Middle School put brooms and dustpans in the classrooms, letting teachers tidy up a bit. Students there who get in trouble end up cleaning up at lunch time to help out.
It is simple enough to write off the district’s cutbacks as a sign of the troubled economic times, but this is a consequence of Nevada’s failure over the years to provide adequately for education. For example, the School District’s maintenance staff has been understaffed for some time. The district has 453 full-time employees. Under the standards set by the Association of Physical Plant Administrators, the district should have 1,226 full-time employees.
The budget cuts threaten to erode what is supposed to be a safe, clean school environment for students. A school in poor shape sends a message to the students that no one cares about their education. It could also be dangerous — imagine a school with a faulty fire alarm system. The School Board should find a way to reduce the backlog of maintenance projects.