Molalla kids strolled back into school Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 5-6, and likely scoped out their desk or locker, hugged some friends and settled in for a new school year. But they may not have noticed the hours of work that went into preparing the building and the grounds for another year.
The school district's maintenance team, led by Tony Tiano, spent the summer on routine maintenance, projects, inspections, and deep cleaning of all facilities.
"Maybe some people can see some of the improvements on the outside, but most of the improvements we've really done has been in the infrastructure of our schools," Tiano said.
As the facilities supervisor, Tiano's philosophy is to treat the district buildings like they were his own home. That means, utilizing his background in construction, he completes projects properly and he looks ahead to prevent problems.
"I think our community should expect that we're not waiting until it is a safety issue," Superintendent Tony Mann said. "Tony's team has been very intentional about assessing and identifying issues and nipping them in the bud."
The maintenance crew's work on the roof at Mulino Elementary reflects Tiano's philosophy.
"We reengineered that roof so we actually have slope," Tiano said. "What we're doing is when we're fixing and replacing stuff like that, we're doing it right…We're not just going to put a new roof on the flat roof, we're going to make it work so we're not having problems in the future."
In addition to the roof at Mulino, the team has done other repairs such as replacing carpet in the high school choir room to prevent tripping hazards, repainting and re-carpeting the walls in the Molalla Elementary School gym, rerouting the failing septic tank at Rural Dell Elementary and taking the opportunity to pour a large, new patio there, and improving drainage at the high school softball field. They also added roofs to the JV dugouts at that field.
"Our girl athletes deserve to have access to their home field as much as our boy athletes do," Mann said. "And that was really a longstanding issue that needed to be solved. So the drainage piece gives that level of assurance of access to their home field."
Another big summer project was the replacement of old images after the revamping of the team logo. The most intensive replacement work took place on the high school gym floor, which had to be ground down to bare wood. The shiny gym floor now bears the new logo.
"It's gorgeous," Tiano said.
Related story: Molalla High School transitioning to new mascot imagery
But with the completion of projects, there have also been challenges like difficult financial prioritizing, a small staff (Tiano has just 13 custodians to clean nearly 500,000 square feet) and unexpected projects.
For instance, crews have had to get creative with maintenance at the middle school, an aging building that was constructed in 1954.
"The middle school…according to the long range planning committee, it's at the end of life in terms of the return on the cost of maintaining a facility," Mann said.
So, instead of installing a new air conditioning system there, they installed roller shades on the computer lab to bring the temperature down. All around, Tiano hopes to make the middle school more inviting.
"We're trying to get things looking better, feeling better, trying to get that feel back that I think maybe has been lost," Tiano said.
Tiano's response to the challenges? "We're doing the best we can with what we've got," he said.
So after the busiest summer that Tiano has had in his four and a half years with the district, the school facilities were cleaned, inspected, repaired and ready to be filled with kids and teachers ahead of schedule.