Thursday, June 13, 2024

MSCS taps district leader to be facility services officer amid infrastructure challenges

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Amid an effort to tackle infrastructure challenges, Memphis-Shelby County Schools has hired a facility services officer. And she’s been with the district for nearly two decades.

MSCS superintendent Marie Feagins, Ed.D., has tapped Michelle Stuart, director of the district’s facility planning department, for the role. As facility services officer, she’ll oversee the management of school facilities, grounds and fleet maintenance, building renovations, and space allocations.

“Michelle’s knowledge and insight when it comes to our district facilities is unparalleled,” Feagins said in a press release. “She knows each property’s benefits and limitations, and her focus is on providing the best possible learning environments for our students.”

A graduate of Rhodes College and the University of Memphis, Stuart has been with the district since 2007, according to her LinkedIn page. As the director of the Facility Planning Department, she has overseen its functions, which include establishing school capacity and utilization, monitoring the city’s changing residential development landscape, defining attendance zones, tracking facility needs, and prioritizing capital projects.

She is also a member of Feagins’ transition team, and she’s currently leading a district-wide facility condition assessment, to identify building conditions, needs, and costs, which are high.

Stuart’s appointment comes at a time when MSCS is grappling with major facilities challenges.

The average age of its school buildings is 64, 24 years past the national recommended life span. There are schools with leaks, schools that need new roofing, and schools that need new fire detection systems. In August, soaring temperatures overwhelmed HVAC systems in some Memphis-Shelby County Schools buildings, leaving students and teachers without air conditioning.

For months, district leaders estimated that MSCS was facing around $500 million in deferred maintenance.

But MSCS has commissioned the testing and inspection company Bureau Veritas to complete comprehensive assessments of 201 facilities within its footprint. And as building reports have trickled in, it’s become clear that the deferred maintenance number is at least $1 billion.

The district is planning to address these issues through a three-pronged infrastructure plan. Already, MSCS has unveiled phase one, which is part of its proposed fiscal year 2025 $1.8 billion budget. This phase, which is expected to cost $96.74 million, is focused on addressing schools’ immediate needs.

Phase two is expected to come after MSCS receives the reports on all 201 facilities in November, and it will involve a deep dive into the state of district facilities and lead to phase three: a comprehensive infrastructure plan that tackles the maintenance and structural issues MSCS is facing.

John Klyce covers education and children’s issues for The Commercial Appeal. You can reach him at John.klyce@commercialappeal.com.

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