Needs Assessment Provides a Clearer Picture of Measure X

Andrew Holman, Editor

DURHAM UNIFIED- Alan Chambers, owner of Eagles Architects, assesses the most important uses of the bond money from Measure X as winter nears.

 

The money that has been provided by the bond is a total of $19.7 million. The intended use of these funds is to improve the campus and facilities, enhancing the overall experience of students and staff. The district hired Eagle Architect, Chambers, at the September board meeting this year to assess the needs of the Durham schools and help decide where these funds will go.

Chambers has been working as an architect for over thirty years. He has been the owner of Eagle Architects for eighteen of those years. He has extensive experience with assessing the needs of schools that have received newfound bond money. His experience with bonds and other projects shows that he will be a reliable source for assessing the needs of the school district.

“My team has completed a site visit to the facilities and buildings on each campus: elementary, intermediate, and high school.” Chambers stated, “We are looking at the existing conditions of all buildings for age, repair needs, outdated phones, fire alarm upgrades, and HVAC upgrades; Just looking at all the components that make up the buildings that you all attend classes in.”

When Chambers and his team visited the site to compile an assessment on October fifteenth, they found that the high school campus and the other two campuses need many improvements. They toured the entire campus, examining every building. These improvements include: renewing the old kitchen equipment, HVAC equipment, improvements to portable classroom buildings, and restroom facilities.

“Overall,” said Chambers, “we found that all of the school facilities were in need of repairs and upgrades due to their ages.”

As the team begins to assess every need that the school has, there are only a few improvements that the bond will cover. The reason that this needs assessment is done is to decide where the money will go and to utilize the funds in the best way possible. The assessment also puts into account district goals and how the goals were presented to the public.

“We look at all the buildings and find out what condition they are in,” Chambers stated, “and then we look at what the district’s wishes are, based upon the bond that they passed, and what they represented to the public.”

The amount of money presented by the bond may seem like a lot, but Chambers believes that this amount will cover only the most essential improvements. He referenced the fact that in many similar situations, the schools are not given sufficient funds to make all the improvements that are needed.

“It usually is never enough money,” Chambers said, “but what we try to do is utilize the money the best that we can, and then we try to leverage the money by having the schools qualify for state grants.”

One of the significant improvements that should be addressed by this new bond is the revamping of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems. These systems have been a focus of the bond since it was released to voters during the 2018 election year.

The employees that will work to make these improvements are mainly the custodians of DUSD. The head custodian, Eric Kolstad, who has been working for the district since July 2018, provided insight into the HVAC systems, which he agrees is one of the top priorities of this bond.

“All of the units are twenty-five or more years old,” Kolstad said, “except for a few of them. They are all way past their life expectancy.”

With the needs assessment coming to a close, it is only a matter of time before the bond provides the improvements that will benefit the students, staff, and community.

“At this point,” said Kolstad, “we are just hoping that we figure out a way to take care of the major problems that we want to take care of with the money we will get.”