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Facility Planning Introduction

Susan Quinn • May 31, 2010

During a series of interviews, the District 15 Board selected an architectural planning firm to guide the district in a Facility Planning process that will hopefully address many of the concerns facing the district with regard to declining enrollment, facility use, and optimizing our spaces for 21st century learning. State law prevents these services from being bid out (please thank the architectural lobbyists for this), so the district is forced to consider firms based on expertise, not cost. However, if the cost of the planning process (which is expected to be a 6-12 month process) is excessive, as judged by the Board, the Board may refuse to approve the proposal and consider another firm. Now that the Board has given direction to the Facility Planner (OWP/P Cannon Design) for scope of services, they should come back sometime in late June with cost estimates for a contract. If approved at that point, the facility planning process will begin.

Assuming approval, the facility planner will use information from the previous architectural study (which had the disappointing result of gathering data, but not moving forward with possible changes in building use), and will start bringing together a steering committee of approximately 50 parents, administrators, community members and possibly board members. This steering committee will consider a host of issues that face the district, including:

  • Declining enrollment/building use: Generally speaking, elementary buildings on the east side of the district are crowded, with the elementary buildings on the west side not. As a result, elementary students are often bused far from their homes to attend school, adding to our transportation costs. Conversely, there are NO junior high buildings on the west side of the district (Smith road is the dividing line of the district and there are no junior high buildings west of there) and so junior high students are often bused far from their homes to attend schools on the east side. The district owns property on Ela Rd. that, at one time, was considered a site for a future junior high. I believe we should take a look at whether we require a junior high at that location in the foreseeable future, and if not, consider alternate uses for the property, including selling it, to recoup money for the district to use for other capital improvements. At the same time, enrollment continues to decline: an examination of district boundaries could better serve students and, at the same time, reduce transportation costs.

  • CLA/Special Education services: CLA houses most of our special education services, and having special education services located in a single building makes much educational sense. However, since CLA is located in the far eastern corner of the district, special needs students – some as young as 3 years old – often spend 45 min or more on the bus to get there. Serving these students well requires a re-examination of the best location for a CLA-like facility.

  • Building Use/Condition: Many of our buildings are aging, and although they are well maintained, will need some substantial capital improvements in the future. As a district, we want to plan for these necessary capital improvements, and make sure that we are leveraging our building use to meet the educational needs of our students.

  • Educational Programming: All day kindergarten, Dual Language Schools, Magnet schools for Gifted or Science/Technology, Grade Level Centers: these are all educational programming options that the district should consider as it moves into the second decade of the 21st century. Declining enrollment presents some challenges, but also provides breathing room within our buildings to repurpose for better educational outcomes.

This is a lot for the steering committee to consider, but there are two driving imperatives that I have emphasized in our early talks with the Facility Planner, and will continue to emphasize as we move forward: 1) Whatever changes we make must be educationally beneficial for our students, or at a minimum cause no adverse affects, and 2) The community must be an integral part of this decision making process.

The District 15 schools belong to the community that supports them, and that sends their children to every day. While the community is not a monolith – we have many varied opinions about what is important and how the schools should be run – large decisions that could change the way our schools are organized or function must involved the community. I believe our facility planners understand this well. More importantly, they have facilitated school planning processes in other districts that have involved the community along every step of the way.

Please see this article in the Daily Herald.

What will it cost?

There are necessary capital improvement costs that we must expend every year, just to keep up with roof repairs and aging carpet, mechanical, and electrical systems. The changes above may cost or save the district money, depending on what direction the community and Board decide to take the district. I will not be in favor of raising taxes on our community to fund a large scale capital improvement project – with declining enrollment and a down economy, it just doesn’t make sense. However, I will be in favor (as I have all along) of responsibly using our bonding capacity for necessary capital improvements, especially if those improvements also enhance the education of our students. Assuming the bond petition is sustained, and the board either revokes the bond issue or it is voted down in November, the district will have a small amount of bond capacity available for future projects. When the community and the board have completed the facility planning process, it is my hope that we will have a consensus on how to best use the resources that we have to improve our schools and the education our children receive.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Sue Quinn
District 15 Board of Education


• For more information on Facilities Planning see the D15PIE home page