Jennifer Pignolet, Memphis Commercial Appeal
As maintenance crews continued to play HVAC whack-a-mole, fixing one heating system just as another broke down, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson was growing exponentially frustrated.
Nine schools in total across the county had to close for either a full or partial day due to heating malfunctions on Wednesday. White Station High had to dismiss early again on Thursday. A handful of other schools had issues in parts of their building, but principals were able to move classes around.
“It’s frustrating because we know that when kids are not in school because of maintenance issues, that’s lost instruction time,” Hopson said.
A week’s worth of cold weather threw a wrench in several schools’ lesson plans. But it also highlighted two messages Hopson has been pushing with increased steam for months: That the growing list of deferred maintenance projects coupled with insufficient capital funding threatens student learning in tangible ways, and that the district and the county as a whole have too many schools.
“We just simply have too many old and outdated buildings,” Hopson said. “We have to figure out how we can build some newer, more energy-efficient buildings in inner-city Memphis.”
List of projects tops half a billion dollars
The district has a list of $500 million worth in deferred maintenance projects, a list that can change weekly as projects are completed or as more issues arise.