BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday directed district personnel to begin work to replace the badly damaged roof at Westside Elementary School, rather than tear down the school and build a new one.
The option to replace the roof means that Westside students will not have to be bused 14 miles away to Pine Grove Elementary, a scenario that raised concerns among Westside parents and staff, dozens of whom attended Tuesday’s workshop.
District facilities Director Roland “Bo” Bavato said that work to replace the roof and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems should be done when school is not in session. The project is expected to cost about $4 million.
Razing the existing structure and building a new school would have cost between $9 million and $13.5 million. That would have been a two-year project, but one that Bavato endorsed.
“Rebuilding it isn’t really an option,” school board member Matt Foreman said, citing budget concerns, including an estimated $81.5 million needed by June 2018 for unfunded capital needs.
“In light of the circumstances, the economics, spending $4 million for a new roof seems like the best option,” Foreman said. “I’m not thrilled, because we’re going to have to reduce expenditures and raise revenues.”
Bavato said that it could be unsafe to attempt to fix the roof while school is in session.
In a previous workshop, Bavato said that portables installed at Westside during roof repairs could be set in a field far from the school, potentially creating safety concerns during extreme weather.
The work could take more than 40 weeks to complete, but a new roof and HVAC system is expected to last 25 to 30 years. The school will still be saddled with drainage and electrical issues.
A new school could have lasted up to 60 years.
Board Chairman Gus Guadagnino asked Bavato if he thought that the new roof was akin to “building a money pit.”
“I believe that you are,” Bavato said.
It could cost more than $850,000 to install portables at Westside while the roof is replaced, a plan that was favored by several parents and school staff.
Board Vice Chair Dianne Bonfield said that the board was simply “doing what we can do.”
“I’m all for making buildings safe, but we can’t be knocking everything down and building new,” she said. “We don’t have the money.”