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APS superintendent offers tours of Besser and Wilson Elementary Schools ahead of bond election

ALPENA, Mich. — On Wednesday, we took a look at conditions inside Ella White Elementary and Alpena High School ahead of Tuesday’s election. Today, we’ll show you what students are dealing with at Besser and Wilson Elementary schools.

The problems in these buildings are common across the district: leaky roofs, inefficient heating systems, and discomfort for the students who spend seven hours a day in these conditions.

Superintendent John VanWagoner says, “It [the district] needs a roof and it needs some heating and the boiler and plumbing things that are just aged out and you just can’t get parts for anymore.”

Arguably, the biggest problem at Besser is the roof. In classrooms, in the hallway, everywhere you look, buckets are keeping water from wetting the floor and dripping on students.

“This is a classroom that we have kids in right now. This is their everyday class and they have to move their desks and everything because a different leak pops up just about every day. So the buckets are filling up with water. As we speak, there’s dripping and we have to move the chrome books, we have to move desks and stuff. Carpet gets saturated with water and we have to dry it out and clean it, almost on a daily basis,” explains VanWagoner.

You can see similar problems at Wilson. One teacher says she constantly has to rearrange furniture just so the water doesn’t pour onto students and their books. But this is just the effect of a much larger problem.

Building and grounds supervisor for APS, Kurt Konieczny, says the roofing system is to blame. “This roof drain – it’s dry and we have standing water all over here on these corners. So really what needs to happen is the foam and insulation needs to be reā€“done, wedges put in, and everything needs to be funneled back to the roof drains. A lot of this standing water in areas like this does not help us out on days like today.”

Superintendent VaWagoner’s goal for this proposal is to keep kids safe, warm, and dry. That’s a challenge that is just getting more difficult with time. Many of the schools have heating and plumbing systems that are original to the buildings. To put things in perspective, the boiler system at Wilson is 63-years-old and Besser’s is 62-years-old. They’ve been repaired numerous times since their installation in the 50s. VanWagoner says the district has done its best to rebound financially over the last few years. Now, it’s time to put the kids first.

“A lot people have asked questions about, you know, why haven’t maybe they been fixed throughout the years and a lot of people don’t realize that the district was essentially bankrupt six years ago. All the employees in the district took a 10 percent pay cut that they’ve never gotten back. We’re at a point now where things are so bad, and things are so desperate, that the help of the bond would make a big difference to keeping our kids truly safe, warm and dry.”

WBKB did not tour every school, but these buildings are representative of what students are experiencing across the district. If you would like more information, or would like to take a tour a of your child’s school, reach out to school administrators or to Superintendent John VanWagoner ahead of Tuesday’s election. You can also visit alpenaschools.com to learn more about what will be updated if the bond is approved.