Polk Schools battling $450 million in maintenance

Posted at 6:58 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 19:08:17-04

BARTOW, Fla. — Polk County Schools have a big renovation project planned for one of its oldest schools in the district.

ABC Action News found out, while one school is getting a much needed lift, schools all across the county are in need of repairs.

Tuesday, school administration celebrated the ground breaking of Bartow High’s renovation that should be complete in about one year.

However, just down the road parents say Bartow’s Middle School is in desperate need of attention.

“The first thing you notice is the flooring,” Aimee McCroskey, a parent of four, says.

She thinks the Bartow Middle School is in need of maintenance.

“It’s old, there’s tiles missing,” McCroskey said.

And the school district says they are well aware of the maintenance needed across the district.

About $440 million in maintenance is needed, plus $172 million in planned projects over the next five years.

The district also says at least 15 schools are dealing with overcrowding issues.

Polk County Schools prioritizes projects, and what is considered critical is taken care of first.

These are the biggest concerns according to administration:

  • Cafeteria upgrade at Eastside Elementary: $600,000
  • Reroof at Stephens Elementary: $780,000
  • Intercom system upgrade at eight schools: $541,000
  • Field upgrade at Frostproof Middle-Senior:  $288,000
  • New kitchen, A/C and cooler freezer at Griffin Elementary: $626,000

About $15 million is spent per year in general repairs.

Back at Bartow Middle School, McCroskey said the students do not have air conditioning in the hallways.

“By the time they get to the next class they are exhausted and hot and that doesn’t create a good learning environment,” she said.

ABC Action News spoke with Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd, who says they are working on each and every need across the county.

“We understand there is a need in all of our county and we are looking how do we address those needs,” Byrd said.

Since 2004, the school says they’ve done about $500 million in maintenance projects but say it wouldn’t have been possible without the sales tax dollars from residents.

The deferred $440 million in repairs isn’t factored into the budget. The schools says without a renewed referendum in the fall, those projects could fall to the wayside.

“That helps with our maintenance in all of our counties. We’re looking at almost $450 million in maintenance that we have in our county alone,” Byrd said.

Parents say it isn’t about the schools just looking, but but feeling good too.

“This is where most kids spend most of their day and so it makes sense that this would be a comfortable, safe learning environment,” McCroskey said.

To view the benefits of renewing the referendum click here.