Modern education requires complex facilities. MSAD 44 builds and renovates, repairs, and maintains. For many years Ron Deegan has looked after all that. He retires in June, reminding us that we need to train people in many areas: occupational health and safety, asbestos abatement, plant operations, budgeting…

The big four in cost and importance are heat, light, insulation, and rooves (And plumbing: Telstar’s fifty-five-year-old iron pipes are porous and pitted, requiring regular work to keep them flowing). Fortunately, our rooves got a major overhaul, including insulation, some years ago when prices were lower. They still require annual inspection and small repairs.

Anyone with an old house knows about insulation: walls leak heat, windows leak like sieves. Telstar was modern a half-century ago, but modern didn’t mean thermopane. The new wing at Crescent Park needs noticeably less heating. Replacing windows is disruptive and expensive: the capital works plan takes it in stages.

Typically we only appreciate power (at any price) when we lose it. Schools can’t function for a day without electricity. Thanks to recent federal funding, each school now has a back-up, diesel-fuelled, generator. It kicks in immediately when needed; kept fuelled, it will keep the school open.

Heating is vital. And expensive. The relative prices of fuel oil and pellets change over time. Heating plants that allow a change of fuel are a good bet. Crescent Park’s system is our most sophisticated. Four pellet-fired boilers “cascade” on as temperatures drop; when it’s really cold the oil-fired boiler supplements their efforts. The process is digitally monitored and controlled; a supervisor can check up and reset from home.

Telstar now has two massive boilers, giving options as the prices of fuels vary. Prioritizing capital works is a key process. Another boiler for Woodstock is Priority One: if the current plant quits, we’re short a school. Repairs or replacements could take weeks.

Paint, carpet, furniture, fixtures, hardware, and pavements aren’t permanent. Tired-looking facilities discourage students and faculty. It takes constant effort, especially during the holidays, to keep up. It’s like painting the Brooklyn Bridge: get to the end and it’s time to start over. As Ron Deegan reminds us, maintenance isn’t optional: “Pay for it now, or pay a lot more later.”

Then there’s transport. But that’s another story.

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