Under the Hood

Posted by Jamie Boelter, Superintendent on 4/24/2023

A favorite conversation piece when I visit my father-in-law is his 1977 two-door Chevy Corvette Coupe.  He bought it about 8 years ago to fulfill a dream to own one as well as something to tinker on in his garage.  All the grandkids have gotten a ride, along with a commemorative picture on the fridge that they always admire when visiting grandma and grandpa in Clara City.  The two oldest grandkids have already discussed using it for prom.

In conversation with my father-in-law, he admits he knew he had a project on his hands when he bought it.  Over the years, he’d tell me about the tires he had to replace and a new brake system with new brake pads and brake lines.  He also changed the carburetor from an air pressure vacuum system to an electric system.  The list goes on and on, but he did what he had to do to keep this beauty on the road.  The memories and experiences far outweighed the cost and time put into fixing it.     

On July 1, 2023, I was given the keys to the NLS school district.  Rather than being handed the keys to a sweet 1977 Coupe, my keys open the doors to our buildings. The memories and experiences of our staff and students filling the halls and classrooms steer my days.  However, in my conversations with my Buildings and Grounds Director, I can’t help but notice the similarities between the upkeep of a classic car and school buildings.  Pipe, roof, boiler, heating unit, and air handling repairs have become common, prompting the district to do two buildings studies; one by Bradbury and Stamm and the other by SiteLogIQ.

Both reports confirmed, many of our systems and equipment in our 1963, 1968, and 1993 buildings and additions are well beyond life.  Tests of our CO2 levels in classrooms are above recommended amounts.  Just like a car built in 1977, buildings can only be fixed so much before parts need to be replaced.  I want to applaud our custodial staff and buildings and grounds personnel over the years for extending the life of systems and equipment invested in by our stakeholders.  

In clear transparency, the district does not have enough money to fix and upgrade our systems and equipment to modern code.  As a public school, we access money through Long Term Facility Maintenance funds, Capital funds, Voter Approved Levies, General funds and Board Approved Levies.  Given we receive just over $600,000 per year in Long Term Facility Maintenance, just over $500,000 a year in Capital and have a General Fund balance slightly over $400,000, this leaves us quite short of the funds needed to take on “under the hood” projects.  In the coming months, the school board will be investigating ways to address these issues.  The goal is to protect community assets and provide an exceptional learning experience for our youth.

Conditions of car brakes, tires, and carburetors aren’t known until you take a look under the hood.  When driving by or walking through school buildings, one does not see the pipes, air handling units, boilers and roofs unless you also take a look behind the walls and into the ceilings.  One may only see a classic car to envy.