School repair assessment discussed at MISD board meeting

MARFA — At Monday’s meeting, Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Facility Services Spokesman James Reece gave Marfa ISD School Board members an update on the organization’s facilities assessment conducted last year, focusing on the Marfa Elementary School campus.

The assessment evaluated the structural integrity of the school’s buildings, Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, utility infrastructures, and the lifespan of the security and HVAC systems, concluding with a prioritized list of needed repairs along with estimated costs for said repairs as well as an estimate for a total replacement.

According to the assessment, Reece said, the estimated cost to build a brand new building came in at $8.3 million, while a “condition budget” to bring the existing building to like-new status would cost the district $1.2 million.

Navigating the school board through the assessment webpage, Reece explained the priority tier and other features while informing school board members of necessary repairs.

The second floor external path of the Marfa Elementary school, he said, will be a priority for the school as the underside of the path has been badly damaged by time. The drainage system at the playground and updates in the CCTV system are also in need of attention, and he advised the school board to prepare to replace the HVAC system within the next five years as the current system is nearing the end of its lifespan.

The TASB assessment website has been made available to all school board members and school administrators.

“To be honest, [the estimate costs] sounded low,” Marfa ISD School Board President Katie Price Fowlkes told The Big Bend Sentinel, adding that the board will look into addressing some of the problems. “It’s a matter of prioritizing projects. We have to be more proactive on our facilities, at least fiscally. We seem to respond only to critical issues. The superintendent will likely bring some of the fixes to us. I hope we tackle all the issues.”

In other school board news, Marfa ISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero updated board members on COVID cases within the school.

As of the Monday evening meeting, there was one active case within the school, with two teachers and four students asked to quarantine due to possible exposure.

“We’ve been asking our staff, if you start to feel a little sick, let’s get tested, and that’s what they did and we found out today,” Aguero told the board.

As COVID vaccinations are underway, Aguero also informed the board that about 50 percent of teachers have received the first round of the vaccine and the school is working toward getting the rest of the teachers vaccinated in coming weeks.

Aguero also addressed last week’s winter storm, which left half of Marfa without power for several days. The school, he explained, opened the doors to its facilities to use as a warming station for those without power and set up 25 cots on Monday at the behest of Presidio County Emergency Services Coordinator Gary Mitschke, and began serving hot food donated by Porter’s, The Get Go, Pizza Foundation, Village Farms and others on Tuesday with the help of volunteers.

Aguero said that through the storm, the school helped feed between 50-70 people per meal. No one, he added, spent the night at the school.

“Just like always, Marfa stepped up and took care of each other and I was really proud to just be a part of that,” Aguero said.