Outgoing Somers-Lakeside School District Superintendent Teri Wing, who will retire in June, is leaving her students and staff quite the parting gift — a new roof for Somers Middle School will be constructed this summer thanks to a grant obtained by Wing.
Wing applied for the grant — a Quality Schools Grant through the Montana Department of Commerce — last spring. She was notified in the months that followed that of the 36 applicants the Somers roof project was ranked third.
The funding for the grant was wrapped up in House Bill 15 and was passed a couple months ago by both houses, but it was not made official until the Governor Schweitzer signed-off on it on Thursday.
Somers Middle School will receive a total of $418,000 to complete the project.
“Schools throughout the state are in a real squeeze for money,” Wing said. “As far as I’m concerned this $418,000 is money that we don’t have to ask our community for. A levy for $418,000 would make a big impact on our community members’ taxes.”
The roof at Somers Middle School has long been a problem. During recent rainy and snowy seasons buckets were positioned in the hallways around the school to collect water that was leaking from the ceiling.
“It’s an old roof and it’s one of those situations where because it is a flat roof you don’t really know where the leak is, you just know that there is leaking taking place,” Wing said. “We had water going through the ceiling and down onto the floor and we had buckets all down the hallways. It was a mess.”
That standing water and the amount coming through pose a number of health and safety problems, including the softening and weakening of the tile flooring, which still has asbestos. There are also safety concerns in regards to ceiling light fixtures.
The district was cited twice on health inspections for the problem, since mold is growing in the leaking area.
Last June the school used a $10,000 grant to make some repairs to the roof, which administrators were told would get them by for another winter or two.
The ability to construct a new roof marks a new era for the building.
The roof has only been patched, but not replaced, since the structure was built in the 1950s and 1960s.
The district tried to run a building bond five years ago, but it was not approved by the voters. If that had passed, it would have funded the upgrades to the current building and built an additional structure.
The district applied for a Quality Schools Grant the previous March as well for the sum of $550,000, which would also have included asbestos removal in the carpet and tile flooring, but was turned down, mainly because the district couldn’t show community support for the project.
When Wing applied for the grant the second time she just requested enough funds to cover the roof project.
Wing is confident that the $418,000 the school is being awarded will cover the entire cost of the project. However, there are some variables in the project.
“Some of the ceiling may need replaced,” Wing said. “We don’t really know until you start pealing the roof off how much damage there is. We know that there is some mold up there, but we don’t know how bad it is. We wrote the grant with the idea that we may have to replace a good chunk of the roof.”
With the grant money on its way it is now up to the school board facility committee to get the ball rolling on the project. They will meet this week to discuss the next course of action.
“We are hoping to get the project started in June,” Wing said. “It is really a fairly extensive project and we want to make sure we have the majority of the work done before school starts back up in August.”