Dayton schools begin long-debated $30M in facilities projects

Westwood Elementary is one of 10 DPS schools slated for an LED lighting upgrade this school year. The others are Dunbar, Meadowdale, Wogaman, Wright Brothers, Cleveland, Eastmont, Kiser, River's Edge and Rosa Parks.
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Westwood Elementary is one of 10 DPS schools slated for an LED lighting upgrade this school year. The others are Dunbar, Meadowdale, Wogaman, Wright Brothers, Cleveland, Eastmont, Kiser, River's Edge and Rosa Parks.

Dayton Public Schools is beginning $30 million in planned facility renovations and upgrades, with $10 million of that work scheduled for the 2020-21 school year.

The district has already begun $1.38 million in LED lighting upgrades in 10 school buildings. The biggest project for this year will be a $6.41 million upgrade of building automation systems in nine schools plus three transportation, service and storage buildings.

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Dayton school board members argued repeatedly last year about the facilities spending plan, because there was no formal project list, because some opposed borrowing the $30 million, and because there were conflicting reports on how the money would be spent.

DPS Business Manager Gary Dickstein last week provided a spreadsheet of specific projects for 2020-21, but he said the other goal is to start preparing for regular maintenance. Almost all of the DPS schools were built in the same 2004-12 window, so repair needs could come in bunches.

“We know have to start putting away a certain amount per year now, because in four years there’s going to be a boiler, or a roof,” Dickstein said. “It’s almost creating a miniature savings account within our annual budget.”

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said there was originally another $7 million in the 20-21 general fund budget for maintenance and for those savings. But with state budget cuts expected, that amount has been cut, and this year’s projects are coming largely from the first $10 million of borrowing.

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“Had COVID not happened, we would be going gangbusters on preventative maintenance and capital improvements,” Dickstein said.

The LED lighting is both higher quality and more efficient than the existing lighting, Dickstein said. The district will qualify for more than $100,000 in energy efficiency rebates from Dayton Power & Light, and Dickstein said the project will pay for itself in savings.

The building automation systems are centralized controls of a school’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning components. Because of the scope of the 2004-12 school construction project, DPS used multiple architects and vendors, who chose a variety of different brands of boilers, air handlers and chillers in different buildings.

“This will allow all of our school buildings to talk to a master automation system with dashboards so we can do a better job of monitoring our energy efficiency,” Dickstein said. “This can be part of a preventative maintenance plan, to replace equipment before it dies.”

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Dickstein emphasized that plans for other projects this year are flexible. Other items currently on the district’s list include $750,000 to repair concrete sidewalks, running tracks and athletic fields at multiple schools.

There’s also $580,000 for parking lot paving, which is currently planned for Kemp, Ruskin and Charity Earley schools, as well as a parking lot for DPS' new central office building at 136 S. Ludlow St.

Smaller projects include floor coverings in eight schools ($450,000), new fencing at five schools ($270,000), reconditioning gym floors at 10 elementary or middle schools ($160,000) and replacing water heaters and water softeners at all buildings ($130,000).

Dickstein said the base plan is to use the $30 million that will be borrowed over the next 3-5 years. He said the commitment from Lolli and the school board to get the district “back on schedule” on facility work is crucial.

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“It’s so important to do these jobs the right way,” he said. “It shouldn’t take forever and a day, but I’m more about getting it done right he first time, rather than having to fix something because we didn’t plan well.”