MSCS buildings, equipment ‘deteriorating at a rapid rate,’ district study shows

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 Investigates continues to look into the ceiling collapse at a district school building in Memphis that sent three people to the hospital.

The collapse happened at Cummings K-8 Optional School. The Memphis-Shelby County School District is responsible for the school building’s upkeep.

FOX13 Investigates the age of MSCS buildings after school ceiling collapse

About two-thirds of MSCS schools are more than 40 years old, according to MCSC documents examined by FOX13 Investigates.

For those schools, $96 million was earmarked for big improvements to school buildings.

FOX13 Investigates found a district budget plan that lists 144 schools, including some that have been closed in recent years and the years they were built.

Cummings K-8 Optional School, built 61 years ago, is among the 67% of those schools that are more than 40 years old; 59 schools, or about 41%, are at least 60 years old.

RELATED: 3 taken to hospital after ceiling collapse in library at Cummings School, MFD says

In a section of the budget proposal that discusses the district’s deferred maintenance plan, the district cites the U.S. Department of Energy, saying a school building will begin rapid deterioration after 40 years and “most” should be abandoned after 60 years in operation.

FOX13 Investigates wanted to know what the district is doing about its older buildings, poring through hundreds of pages of budget documents to find out.

A study that was done eight years ago evaluated district buildings based on needs, determining aged buildings and equipment are deteriorating at a rapid rate.

The district set aside more than $476 million for prioritized deferred maintenance. As of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the district said it had addressed or budgeted for about 41% of those projects.

FOX13 Investigates examined school board documents, uncovering more.

Over $15 million was budgeted last year for new gyms at Cummings and three other schools, and a new roof at Egypt Elementary was priced at more than $1 million.

Several schools, including Cummings, had money earmarked for new fire alarm systems and new heating and cooling systems.

But more than $3 million set aside in the last annual budget for maintenance across the district went unspent.

FOX13 Investigates also examined the ages of most of the district’s schools, finding the oldest, Idlewild Elementary, opened 119 years ago.

The newest, Parkway Village Elementary, opened in early 2020 at a cost of $29 million.

The district and its charter schools got about half a billion dollars in federal pandemic relief money to help pay for many of their capital projects.

It would cost more than $1.7 billion to build replacements for the 59 schools that are at least 60 years old at the same cost as the district’s new school.

MSCS did not respond to a request for comment by news time.