MUSD using bond money to improve facilities, buy buses - The Explorer: Marana

MUSD using bond money to improve facilities, buy buses

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Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 3:00 am

Marana Unified School District has begun tapping $43 million in bond funds for capital projects authorized by voters last November to improve school and athletic facilities, recondition parking lots and purchase a fleet of new buses.

Projects covered under the General Obligation Bonds will be handled over a five-year period, said Tamara Crawley, MUSD’s director of public relations, and cover four categories – athletic and school facilities ($16.1 million), student transportation ($12.3 million), security and technology ($11.1 million), and land ($3.5 million).

Bob Thomas, director of facilities management, said now that the schools have emptied of students, contractors have been able to begin re-roofing at Marana High School, the first of 17 schools that are scheduled for new roofs.

“We chose Marana High School first because of the age of its roof and the fact it had the most need,” Thomas pointed out. “The contractor will tear down all the layers to the plywood, install new layers of material, and top it off with an asphalt-type granular material.”

Thomas noted that the gym and cafeteria at Marana High School are domed, and not scheduled to be replaced. Other schools are scheduled for roof replacement in years two through five of the bond-funding program.

Parking lot repairs and replacement also have begun, Thomas said, at Marana High School, Marana and Tortolita middle schools, and Ironwood and Roadrunner elementary schools.

“Depending on the condition of the lot at a location, the contractors will mill and repave some lots or repair cracks and seal-coat others,” he said.

Another part of the first year of bond projects includes installing floor coverings – primarily in classrooms – at Marana and Mountain View high schools, Marana and Tortolita middle schools, Marana Career and Technical High School, and Ironwood, Thornydale and Quail Run elementary schools.

Work also is progressing in replacing and resurfacing the running tracks at Marana and Mountain View high schools, as well as renovations and resurfacing of tennis courts.

Thomas noted that the first year’s spending on athletics and school facilities will total $4.2 million of the $16.1 million allocated in the bonds for those projects.

MUSD also has purchased 31 school buses – 21 route and seven special needs – and is currently equipping them with radios and cameras. The district expects three trip buses to be delivered later this month, which would complete the first of three bus purchase phases.

Robert Hobbs, bus garage manager, pointed out the district changed to a different style bus with this purchase.

“We went to a conventional style bus and not the flat-nose transit type,” Hobbs said. “Their advantages are they are a lot more sturdy for the rural type of use we put them through because the conventional chassis is stronger and has a stronger body arrangement. That will increase the life span of the buses.”

He noted the conventional style buses also are cooler internally and ride more smoothly because they are air-ride equipped, instead of using traditional leaf springs.

The new route and special needs buses are built by International and use MaxxForce 7 diesel engines, while the trip buses are made by Thomas and fitted with the same engine.

“We expect fuel cost savings with the MaxxForce engines of approximately 20 percent,” Hobbs said, “and these engines meet the federal 2010 emission standards for fuel, particulate and noise emissions.”

The district also is retrofitting the air conditioning on 22 of its 2005 and 2006 rear-engine buses, and will install four cameras on each of the route and trip buses and three on each of the shorter-wheelbase special needs buses.

Alisha Meza, transportation operations manager, noted the digital cameras being installed have no moving parts and are based on SD card technology, similar to such cards used in popular digital cameras. Meza said the new system can be set to record between 40 and 140 hours of images, depending on the quality of the image desired.

Crawley pointed out that the purchase of the buses is an important part of the bond program because of the huge size of the district.

Marana’s school buses travel approximately 11,200 miles a day on 100 routes, transporting about 6,600 MUSD students, covering an area of 550 square miles, one of the largest school districts by area in the state, she said. The district also provides transportation for special needs students under the federal McKinney Vento law for homeless services, adding about 70,000 miles a year to bus runs, Crawley added.

“When the purchases are complete, all the 133 buses in our fleet will be equipped with air conditioning, seat belts and additional features,” Crawley said.

MUSD requires all students riding its buses to use seat belts, although there is no federal or state law requiring it to do so.

Another safety feature on the route buses includes the Leave No Student Behind system, Hobbs said.

Bus drivers are trained to walk the interior of the bus once back at the garage after a run, he said. The new system requires a driver, once the bus has been shut off at the end of a route, to walk the interior to the back of the bus and hold a switch near the rear exit door for three seconds. If a driver forgets to take that walk and exits the bus without hitting the switch, the system flashes lights and honks the bus horn to attract attention.

On the security and technology portion of the bonds, Crawley said security camera systems will be installed in Marana and Mountain View high schools, and Tortolita and Marana middle schools, while all district schools will have a visitor check-in security system installed.

The land portion of the bonds is for the purchase of land for a future high school. The district currently has land in inventory on which to build future elementary schools and a middle school.

“We are in negotiations to consider the purchase of 107 acres from RB Land Ventures for the acquisition of a future high school site,” Crawley said. “The land is bordered by Sanders Road on the west, Sandario Road on the east, Grier Road on the north and Barnett Road on the south.”

The district went to the voters last year to authorize the bonds, Thomas pointed out, because a source of money from the state had dried up for capital improvements.

“The state’s School Facilities Board used to allocate a certain amount of money every year to school districts for this type of work,” Thomas said. “Marana’s allocation was around $1.3 million, but wasn’t fully funded, so we’d usually get between $800,000 and $900,000 yearly for capital improvements to facilities. But last year was the third year we didn’t receive that money, which is why we went to the bonds as a funding source.”

A complete list of the General Obligation Bond projects and their timing can be found on the MUSD website at www.maranausd.org.

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