Summer is the time school districts around the country normally address maintenance and repair projects along with capital improvements around campuses while students are enjoying a well-earned break.
But last summer was anything but normal, which put the Hobbs Municipal Schools behind on needed repairs and upgrades to school facilities, said Zeke Kaney, director of operations for the district. There’s work going on or scheduled to start soon on every campus in the Hobbs district, Kaney said.
HMS is planning to complete more than $2 million in projects by the time students return to class in the fall, he said. Funds that would have been spent on projects last year went into deep cleaning district facilities, securing personal protective equipment for teachers and students and gearing up technologically for a very different kind of teaching moving forward.
“Last year, when we would have been using the summertime as our normal upkeep cycle, continuing with necessary projects. We switched focus to spending money on laptops for students so every student would have one for the school year,” Kaney said. “We also switched money into sanitation, making sure schools were sanitized so we could bring back teachers and students in a safe manner.”
But, with conditions getting closer to normal this summer, the handful of projects relegated to the back burner a year ago are getting going again in Hobbs schools. Along with those, projects already planned for this summer are moving along apace, Kaney said.
It’s a mad dash to get plumbing repaired, equipment upgraded, windows and doors replaced and more in a short period of time, said Mark Kerby, assistant maintenance supervisor for the district.
“We have about two months to do 12 months of work,” Kerby said.
On top of that, while work would normally be done while students were away, the district’s expanded summer school program this summer meant some switching things around. It’s been a bit of an exercise in creative logistics, he said.
“This year, planning also had to revolve around summer school,” Kaney said. “This is the largest summer school we’ve ever had to allow some students to catch up and recover.
“It’s not impossible,” he said. “It just means we have to plan accordingly and make sure things stay on schedule.”
A massive plumbing project at Hobbs High School is a prime example. Scheduled for the three wings that typically house summer school classes, administrators had to relocate classes to make sure students were separated from work zones, Kaney said.
Perhaps the largest project, though, isn’t part of that $2 million, he said. Five campuses — Heizer, Highland and Houston middle schools, the Hobbs Freshman High School and Hobbs High School — will be receiving new digital projectors and screens over the coming weeks at a price tag of more than $1 million, paid for with federal Title I money focused primarily on assisting students achieve state academic standards.
Across the district, projects include kitchen remodeling, sewer and tile replacement, windows and exterior doors and more. Will Rogers Elementary students will see probably the most significant visible changes when they return in the fall with the upgrade of the school playground including new playground equipment, Kaney said.
“The most dramatic impact will be at Will Rogers,” he said. “Everything that’s happening in there you’re going to see.”
Work on the new playground and equipment is scheduled to start in July following the completion of summer school classes, Kaney said.
Some of the projects that were scheduled for earlier were able to be accomplished and were actually made easier because students weren’t in school for a significant portion of the past year, he said. A security-fencing project around the Hobbs High School campus is a prime example.
“There were some projects that worked out nicely because we didn’t have students at school,” Kaney said. “The fence project at the high school — for most of the time crews weren’t working around students. That made it a little easier.”