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Work at Libby schools beset by problems, shortages

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | August 31, 2021 7:00 AM

Libby Public Schools administrators have faced more than a couple of setbacks in recent construction and maintenance projects.

“There wasn’t one project that we had going on at the school this year that wasn’t impacted in some way by a material shortage or labor shortage,” said Superintendent Ron Goodman at an Aug. 23 school board meeting.

Days before Libby Elementary School was set to welcome students back to classes, an effort to repair one of the building’s roofs was thwarted by a rainstorm. The school’s yellow pod, which houses fourth and fifth grade classes, flooded with water.

Jeanine Kidwell, the new elementary principal, said custodians moved quickly to ready the pod for classes by drying out the area and covering it with plastic.

“There may be some peripheral damage to things that were on the wall but most [classroom materials] like textbooks we were able to move to a dry spot,” she said.

Goodman said in a follow-up interview that district staff would inspect drywall in the pod for damage and would conduct any needed repairs later in the school year.

The project, which was scheduled for completion in June, was already behind schedule due to a labor shortage. Progressive Roofing, the company responsible for the maintenance work, generally operates with a crew of 25 workers. Goodman told board members that the company was making due with 12 employees at the time of the meeting.

Goodman noted that even small projects, like painting new lines on asphalt, ran into complications. Due to a shortage, the district had to use white paint in areas that it would have normally used yellow. And even getting white paint proved to be a struggle for district employees.

“Can’t we just start a school year … just ease into it,” said board member Bgee Zimmerman.