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Mountain of Maintenance: School District Near Chicago Ponders Renovations, Building Consolidations
John Fuhrer, Director of Operations for North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Ill., discusses maintenance and building consolidation efforts inside his school district.
Director of Operations,
North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Ill.
1. Describe the daily maintenance challenges your staff faces in a school district that consists of so many aging buildings.
Keeping up with the volume of tasks. Commercial facilities that have had patchwork additions and repairs with the mindset of only the next 5-10 years has created an environment of continuous repair needs.
2. From a maintenance standpoint, how critical has the situation become at your facilities?
The current situation is at the point of continuing to use the same approach is going to cost "X" over the next 15-20 years with a guarantee of continuous cycles of the same funding, or we can spend the funds on new facilities or significantly remodeled facilities to take the district into the next 25-50 years. This would also provide for holistic upgrades to the facilities versus the individual repair approach.
3. As a facilities manager, what kind of perspective do you bring to the committee looking to consolidate buildings?
I bring the history, current needs, as well as the future needs of the facilities. My primary role is to advise on these conditions, costing, and forecasting to help educate the committee members to help them make informed decisions.
4. How would the consolidation of schools impact your district's maintenance staff?
The consolidation would not have a significant impact because the process of consolidation could be a five-year process. Then the decision to maintain the old buildings for some future use has to be made. Opening new or remodeled buildings has its own issues to get a building stabilized. I would see attrition being the tool used over the next 5-10 years based on consolidation alone.
5. What kinds of lessons are you learning as a facilities manager while going through this process?
I am working with the community as a steward of their tax dollars, along with what and how they look at the school buildings today as well as future needs. I'm really challenging myself in how I see the short- and long-term needs from the financial impacts. Improving your skills on building a tight long-range plan that can be sustained over time, whether I am the facility manager or the next person. I am working on being in a place that would allow someone else to walk in behind me and run the department. I believe you should be building an operation that could be run by another person without leaving too many questions left unanswered.