Franklin City Public Schools discusses urgent roof needs

Published 11:05 am Friday, April 15, 2022

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Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tamara Sterling expressed notable urgency in reference to the status of the roofs at Franklin High School and S.P. Morton Elementary School during the April 8 Franklin City School Board meeting.

Tamara Sterling

“We really are at, to me personally, a state of emergency when it comes to our roofs,” she said.

In a memo to Franklin City Inspector Phil Sherman, FCPS Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Pupil Personnel Dr. Carlton Carter thanked Sherman for meeting him and conducting a walkthrough of each school building to look at the school division’s most critical repairs and upgrades at each facility listed in the Capital Improvement Plan. 

Carter noted that at the high school, they observed that various roof materials throughout the building have failed, causing leaks whenever precipitation or inclement weather takes place.

He stated that the same was true of the elementary school roof, and he mentioned roof replacement as his and the inspector’s focus for both schools.

In his April 8 presentation to the school board, Carter cited the roofs at the two schools first on a list of the division’s urgent capital needs.

The presentation noted that the city inspector and vendor recommendations varied when it came to the roofs, and the division is seeking another assessment

“The roofs at both facilities have reached their end-of-life expectancy, and so we’re going to bring in a third opinion,” Carter told board members. “So the city inspector said that it’s relatively in fair-to-poor condition and can be possibly patched, but that would mean that it’s about a five-year lifespan, maximum, if you want to do that.”

He said that aligns to the assessment that FCPS had back in 2013 where it was fair to poor, and patchwork was done then.

“I looked at the old records,” he said. “It was well over $600,000 just to patch, and that, again, is a five-year life expectancy, and so that’s a situation where decisions have to be made. But we’re going to get a third assessment.”

At-large Board Member Carrie Johnson said, “Why are we going for the third assessment if we have an idea of the direction that we want to go?”

Carter indicated the third assessment will provide further insight on whether it makes more sense to patch the roof or to put on a new roof, and it will give another estimate of what needs to be done.

“We just want to make sure because it’s an awful lot of money, and we want to make sure that we are very prudent in what we want to do,” he said.

Johnson asked what the risk is of waiting for another opinion.

“While we’re waiting on a third opinion, we’re neither patching nor replacing, we’re still leaking, and we’re still incurring issues with the leak,” she said.

Carter said the division has more information on the roof issues at the high school, and the third assessment will provide more information about the status of the elementary school roof, and he said the turnaround time for the third opinion would be a week.

“As soon as we get it initiated, they will immediately generate the report, so it’s not a long turnaround, Ms. Johnson,” he said.

Sterling said, “But Board Member Johnson is correct, because this is a part of our Capital Improvement Plan, so even if we get an assessment that says we need to get this done tomorrow, the funds still have to be secured, and we don’t know how long that’s going to be.”

Sterling affirmed that the roofs are leaking, “tiles are all brown.”

Recalling an instance when she was told the roof was leaking, she said, “I was like, ‘Go buy some tarp from Lowe’s, lay it on the roof. At least have it catch some of the water,’ because it was seeping down into the walls.”

Ward 2 Board Member and Board Chair Amy L. Phillips said, “And for those of us that have been here for a considerable amount of time, we know that S.P. Morton was not constructed as the building we know it is right now. It was an open-concept campus; everything that is a hallway now was a breezeway.”

She said that all of the inside walls were block concrete walls. 

“So when you have invasion of water in, seeping into concrete, it’s going to destabilize that concrete and mortar, and now you’ve got structural issues, and I think we’re starting to see some of that,” she said.

Carter added, “We absolutely are seeing that.” 

Ward 5 Board Member Dr. Andrea Shelton said, “But the funding part is not really in our hands, right?”

Phillips noted she is correct.

“We’ve made our requests, based upon the needs that we know are present, to the city, and that was in that Capital Improvement Plan that we submitted with our budget,” Phillips said. “So that is in the city’s hands. Unfortunately, we are at their mercy of being able to find funding for that.”

“So possibly the city inspector might give us a little leverage?” Shelton asked.

Phillips replied, “Possibly they could give the city some information from someone that they know understands that kind of stuff that could give them information to make an informed decision when it comes to looking at funding that request.”