Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

More than 40 years ago, the building that is currently known as Macon Middle School was constructed. In the last four decades, the middle school has been expanded on two different occasions, but aside from the expansion, no significant renovations have been completed on the outdated facility.

Macon Middle School Principal Scot Maslin walked from room to room last week pointing out ceiling tiles that were just replaced due to excessive moisture caused from a leaking roof, mildew smells in the air masked by dehumidifiers that are constantly running to filter the air, and bubbling floor tiles visibly damaged from water seeping in from window frames that are as old as the walls that hold them up. The school as a whole is structurally sound. Aesthetic projects to the main entrance both improve the overall look of the school as well as bolster the school spirit of the MMS Panthers, but beyond the small temporary attempts to “fix” issues, serious issues with water leaks, outdated carpet, and safety hazards can be found tucked away in corners and hidden under makeshift window seals.

“This is a really great school,” said Maslin. “The building as a whole is in really great shape, it just hasn’t been taken care of since it was built which has brought us to where we are now. While there aren’t many things that need to be fixed, the problems are significant and potentially dangerous.”

The most significant renovation inside of the middle school started last year with new carpet. With a portion of the capital outlay funds allocated by county commissioners, school district leaders selected a handful of classrooms at various schools in the county to replace the carpet. Unfortunately, that didn’t even put a dent in the need at the middle school. Water stained carpet, as old as the buildings in which they were laid, line the hallways and are tattered and worn. The need for new carpet throughout the middle school buildings is one of Maslin’s top priorities. The carpet, along with floor tile has sustained significant water damage over the last few decades that have left the floor raised in places and constantly slick from moisture. In some classrooms, such as the band room, the floors have become so saturated, once you walk in the door you can smell the must of old water and debris. Dehumidifiers are on countertops and are constantly running to clean the air.

Moving from the floor up, Maslin said his next main focus are the windows throughout the building.  In the last few years, the aesthetic for the windows have been upgraded on the outside to make them appear new and more appealing, but the truth lies on the inside of the classrooms. Nearly all the window seals throughout the school have a makeshift cover placed over chipping, rusting metal that breaks away and deteriorates at a touch. In a computer room, a teacher had lined the window with wash rags, preparing for the impending rain forming in the storm clouds covering the school. Even on days it doesn’t rain, moisture seeps down the crevasses of the building.

The brick walls on the inside and out of the building are white from water damage. The swollen bricks have endured years of water damage that is starting to show and has Maslin concerned about how much longer they can sustain the damage.

While the windows and floor coverings are priorities for Maslin, county commissioners have added roof concerns to the list of renovations that need to be placed on the “must have” list. The district has had issues with the flat portions of the roof since it was installed in 2000. The expected life of the flat membrane’s roof is 20 years, just two years away. The section of the roof constructed in 1995 has had some repair work, but has been the cause of significant problems for the school facility. The entire roof system, which was installed in phases in 1995, 2000, 2001, and 2005, needs to be replaced in the near future, according to Macon County Schools consultant Terry Bell. Bell said the roof that was installed in 2005 could theoretically hold up until 2025.

Moving on the outside of the facility, Maslin has asked the district to consider repairing the blacktop located at the outside basketball court due to safety concerns. The surface of the blacktop is split down to the base under one of the basketball goals. Maslin said recently a student was playing on the court and was injured due to the split. Rather than replacing the entire blacktop or scrapping it all together, Maslin is proposing fixing one half of it to continue being used as a basketball court and removing the other half to transition into a practice football field for the middle school football team.

Some of the middle school projects are on the proposed capital outlay priority list for the coming year, but the complete overhaul and renovation is something commissioners and school leaders are working on. Rather than patch the holes and continue doing temporary repairs, commissioners are looking at a significant investment into the district’s middle school.

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