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Support crews, supervisor maintain building operations in school district

Sun Advocate general manager

Maintenance specialist Sid Nelson looks at some parts with Deon Kone, the building and ground supervisor at Carbon School District. The district has four maintenance specialists who travel from school to school performing tasks that the custodians can't take care of at the buildings.

Schools hold memories for students who attended classes, went to activities and played sports in the buildings.

People tend to love their schools and react strongly when a school is considered for closure.

Schools are complicated structures made of concrete, brick, metal, glass, plastic and wood. The buildings have extensive heating and cooling systems, large electrical layouts and surfaces galore, many of which require a great deal of care. That's where the maintenance and custodial departments in a school district come in.

In Carbon School District, the responsibility falls on Dion Kone, the supervisor of buildings and grounds. He and his crews in the maintenance and custodial departments have to make sure the buildings operate properly.

"Altogether, there are 13 school and two ancillary buildings in the district," said Kone. "To do maintenance on all those buildings, we only have four all around maintenance people. It's a big job for only that many workers."

The buildings in the district range in age from about 70 to 25 years old. After the administration office building was taken down several years ago, Helper Junior High became the oldest school in the district's inventory.

"It's kind of funny," pointed out Kone. "Every once in a while, someone will walk in the front door of our office and ask about registering for school or something about classes. I guess they think that, since the district office used to stand in front of our building, it is now in here."

The maintenance building houses a shop to do all kinds of work. Behind it is a compound for district vehicles, equipment and supplies.

"We try to do all the work that needs to be done ourselves," stated Kone. "But with around one-half a million feet of building space spread across the county, sometimes we get big projects and must contract some of it out. This year we had a lot of build outs, big projects, so we had to do some of that."

The sprinkling systems that have to be ready in the spring and maintained all summer are one of the biggest headaches for the crews.

"Those systems are always breaking or needing repairs," said the supervisor. "It takes a lot of time to do that. It takes us away from other things we need to do."

Kone started out in the construction industry as a carpenter in California. He became a field superintendent and then a project manager for a construction company. He spent his later teenage years in Carbon County and when the supervisor's job came open, he applied and moved back to take the position when it was offered.

Major maintenance problems Kone has seen are situations involving air flow in the high school and roofing problems at a number of buildings.

"We have had a lot of problems with roofs and roofing systems," said Kone "This next summer, we will be completing the second phase of the roofing project we started this past year at Carbon High."

The supervisor indicated that warranties on roofs should be for 20 years and contractors and manufacturers should be held to the guarantees.

As the district moves toward new roofs, Kone said the crews are installing air conditioning units at the schools at the same time.

"We have 34 full- and part-time people who keep our buildings clean," said Kone, referring to the custodial department. "We have spent a lot of money trying to get them the best materials and equipment to do their jobs. There is a lot of equipment that can be purchased that will save time, like ride on scrubbers for the halls. We have been investing in that kind of technology."

Custodians not only have to clean the buildings, but handle a myriad of problems that come up in the schools and do a lot of maintenance chores. In addition, custodians deal with special programs, sporting events, building rentals and other uses of the facility. They also do a lot of grounds work in the summer.

In the past the one of the problems with the custodial force was that when someone was sick or needed some time off there was no one to cover for them. Kone says in the last few months the district has now hired a maintenance helper who will also substitute when custodians are out.

"Problem is right now I could use him at three different schools already," stated Kone.

The biggest project the building and grounds has faced in years is coming up soon; the construction of a new elementary school in Sunnyside.

"It won't be long and the bids will be hitting the street on that new facility," says Kone. "When it is completed it will be a state of the art facility."

After closing East Carbon High last spring the Carbon Board of Education had to decide what to do with the building. The community feared losing the center of their town, particularly in terms of the gymnasium facility. At first the district considered turning the old high school into an elementary school and moving the students from Peterson Elementary there. It seemed a logical move at the time, even though the old high school building was only five years newer than the present Peterson school.

However, after reviewing what would have to be done to make the conversion it appeared that the cost would be very high and as Superintendent David Armstrong said in a board meeting at the time "We would put all that money into it and would still have an old building."

So the board decided to build a new elementary building south of the present high school building and tear down most of the old high school building. What would remain, the gym and cafeteria, will be remodeled and will be connected to the new school by a covered walkway. With the athletic facility separate from the elementary school proper, it will be available for more public use without compromising security in the new building.

The new facility will have eight classrooms, a library and offices. It will have all the electronic devices and hookups that should be installed in a new building in these days of high technology. In addition each room will have individual heating and cooling controls, which will make for a facility that can be run more efficiently.

"That way if the custodians are working in one room during the summer or the office is open on a day off in the winter, we don't have to cool or heat the entire building for a few people," said Kone. "It will be quite a building when it is done."

Kone says the maintenance and cleaning industries are moving forward technologically like everything else in society. He says new materials, new equipment and new practices are all adding to the ability of maintenance departments to take care of buildings properly. That should mean longer life for school buildings.

Buildings that have memories attached to them.

Editors note: This is the first in a series of four articles on support services in Carbon School District.

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