High school hazards, nowhere else for district to turn:

Everyone knows that maintenance projects can be pricey, but when you have to think about an entire school district, some seem impossible.

In the upcoming May 3 school election, there is a proposed building reserve levy for Custer County District High School.

The Miles City Unified Board of Trustees received good feedback on the Lincoln Elementary School levy, which still has two years left. Now they want to move the focus to the high school district.

The high school is in need of a full sewage replacement and a new roof. Currently, they would have to re-roof the high school in eight sections to make it affordable.

“You try to keep up with things, but you don’t, you really don’t,” said Superintendent Keith Campbell.

The high school roofs are in the 20- to 30-year-old range. Other projects include lighting, installing a security system, sidewalk work, repairing the parking lots, addressing handicap accessibility and more.

The board made the decision to add the levy to the ballot in March. The district has applied for a Quality Schools grant for the high school, but despite ranking high in needs, the district was twice turned down for such a grant for Lincoln School.

The levy would generate $100,000 a year for 10 years. This would cost taxpayers either $6.50 a year on a home valued at $100,000 or $13 a year on a home valued at $200,000.

The money raised from the building reserve levy cannot be used for anything other than building issues.  

“Our district needs assessment three years ago identified over $8 million in infrastructure needs,” said  Campbell. “The only way to do some of these projects is to ask the taxpayers for the money and build up enough over time to address them.”

CCDHS was built in 1921, making it almost 100 years old. The school has undergone several additions and renovation projects. In 1963 the gymnasium and classroom space were added. In 1983 more classroom spaces were added. Throughout the years, the school has experienced numerous flooding events in the lower level of the original building from 1921. The flooding has coincided with heavy rainstorms. 

The Comprehensive School Facility Condition Assessment Plan covered the flooding in the 1921 original building and the 1963 gymnasium addition. 

According to the assessment, the summer of 2013 brought several heavy rainstorms. The rainfall totals exceeded two inches per hour. 

After the storm, faculty found debris in a drinking fountain and sink bowl, standing water in several classrooms, corridors and offices and debris on the floors in the bathrooms. All the flooded areas were located on the lower level of the main building. 

According to the assessment, the main reason for the flooding is that the waste pipe cannot handle the rainfall.

In the gymnasium main floor addition, the flooding resulted in standing water halfway across the wood floor. The floor was later patched. According to the assessment, school personnel also filled a gap between the sidewalk and gymnasium wall with several types of water-stopping compounds. It was later reported that the leaking into the gymnasium appeared to have been reduced. 

The sewer system is almost 100 years old and needs to be replaced due to age. 

Most of the flooding happens during the summer months.

“The high school is in dire need of several building improvements, and this levy would help meet those needs,” said CCDHS Principal Beez Lucero.

To cast your vote in the upcoming election, all Custer County residents will go the CCDHS gymnasium from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday. People can absentee vote at the school administration office, 1604 Main St., until noon on Monday, May 2. 

A story on candidates for school board seats will run in a later edition.