People who live near Pima’s schools will be hearing a lot of power tools over the next several months as the school district’s construction projects go into high gear.
New bathrooms, roofs and classrooms will all be constructed in the coming months, said Pima Unified School District Superintendent Sean Rickert.
In total, the projects will cost a little more than $5.5 million, with the school district and the Arizona School Facilities Board sharing the costs.
At the elementary school, Pointe Construction is working on a $130,000 restroom renovation project and Edge Construction is replacing the roofs on the elementary school buildings and parts of the high school – a $1.2 million project. Crews will be taking the tiles off the old high school and Stan Smith Gym to replace the membrane underneath.
Both projects are being funded with grants from the Arizona School Facilities Board, although the district is contributing about $5,000 to offset the cost of keeping the tile roof, Ricket said in a news release. The district wanted to keep the historic look of the building.
“Years ago it was determined by the health department that some of the restrooms at the elementary school didn’t meet the guidelines. In response the restrooms at the library, and elementary school are being completely refurbished,” Rickert said in the release.
The superintendent said TSG Construction is also finishing the demolition of the old elementary school on Main Street.
The state condemned the school, which was built in 1922, almost 20 years ago and it’s become a hazard, Rickert said.
“In 2015 a cost assessment was done to figure out what it would cost to bring the building back, but it was determined the cost would be extremely high and the building still wouldn’t meet the needs of today’s school program,” Rickert said.
The district secured an emergency grant of $100,000 from the SFB to cover the cost of the demolition, he said. Eventually, that area will be turned into a parking lot, but for now it will remain an open space.
Over the next eight months TSG will also be building a 13-classroom, 16,000 square foot building north of the football field, Rickert said.
“The new facility will be designed with kindergarten through second grade in mind and will include a playground for the little kids,” Rickert said.
Rickert said Pima is growing and there is not enough space in the current facility to house all the students and those projected to move to the area in the next five years.
Roughly a third, or $1.3 million of the project’s cost is coming from a loan the district will pay back over the next 10 years, Rickert said. The remaining $3 million is split between funding from the SFB and the capital reserve funds the district has built up in anticipation of the need to build new classrooms.
“Once completed Pima’s schools will have received a facelift and the addition of some much needed space,” Rickert said. “All the classrooms south of the gap created by the demolition will be high school classes, and everything north of the gap will be elementary school. This means the high school will add some much needed space as building is done at the elementary school.”
A couple of smaller projects will soon be underway, too.
TSG will be replacing and rerouting the storm drain running northeast from Main Street across the campus thanks to a $100,000 SFB grant.
The existing 24-inch corrugated steel pipe installed in the mid-sixties runs under the site where the new classrooms are to be constructed, he said. The new line will providing better drainage and reduce runoff through the lot north of the school as well.
The district is also replacing outdated inefficient lighting and thermostats as part of an energy savings plan. The project will be funded with the money the district will save on utility costs in the future.
“Our primary goal is to ensure we can do a better job of meeting the needs of our students”, Rickert said. “These are projects we began years ago that are finally coming to fruition. The fact that all this has come about in a way and at a time to provide a boost to the local economy is just icing on the cake.”
Rickert said he wanted to thank the Town of Pima, especially town manager Sean Lewis, and the Graham County Co-op, for the “tremendous support and assistance” they’ve given the district.
“Coordinating projects like this is somewhat complicated and it is the support we receive from our community that makes it all possible,” he said.
In the future, Rickert said the district will be working to secure funding from the SFB to build a new high school, which will cost an estimated $25-$30 million.
While large, metro communities often ask their residents to vote for bonds, they are often voted down in smaller communities because of the impact on property taxes, Rickert said. Rural communities don’t have large taxpaying entities like shopping malls and power plants so residents would have to bear the cost of repaying the bonds.