When a 2010 ballot initiative for $47.4 million in school repair money was rejected by voters, it was back to the drawing board for school district officials.
Now, after more than a year of study by staff and community volunteers, a new picture of the school district’s repair needs is complete, and it could head to voters again.
Starting in May of 2013, more than 20 community volunteers formed a Capital Facilities Steering Committee and spent more than a year touring the school district’s facilities and cataloging the needs of the district.
Monday, July 21, the school board and city council reviewed the findings of the committee and discussed the possibility of a levy for funds to address the district’s needs.
What the district needs
In all, the Capital Facility Steering Committee recommended about $140 million (in preliminary estimates) worth of work that the school district needs. Impact mitigation fees from development could take care of about $20 million of that, leaving about $120 million to come from other sources. (see Priorities and Prices, below).
Some members of the steering committee were surprised at the condition of the school district’s buildings.
“I participated pretty much all the way through, and each month we toured a different facility,” said committee member Steve Jensen. “I wasn’t aware of how many of the facilities were in need of attention. There seemed to be something needed everywhere, something old or run-down, something that was not conducive to a good learning environment.”
After touring all the buildings, the committee members identified everything they felt needed to be done sooner or later.
The needs fell into several groups, said school district spokesperson Rosemary O’Neil.
“At the end there were nine themes that arose, so then they did several activities to prioritize those,” said O’Neil.
After parents commented and the district conducted an online survey, a prioritized list emerged.
“The same project, needing the most attention, across all those groups, was to modernize Park Place Middle School,” said O’Neil.
“It’s kind of something out of the former Soviet Union,” said committee member Erin Angus-Snapka. “It’s a bit misleading, because from the road, you see a sold brick structure. But things fall apart as you walk around the campus.”
The passage of a technology levy last February offset some of the technological infrastructure needs, she noted, but a lot of issues with the buildings themselves remain.
At about an estimated $60 million, the Park Place Middle School repairs are far and away the largest of the projects identified.
Second largest is a modernization of Salem Woods Elementary, at about $28 million.
Expanding and consolidating Frank Wagner Elementary and Expanding Hidden River Elementary were numbers 3 and 4 on the list of priorities, and also in costs. Reducing the use of portable buildings district wide, adding all-weather ball fields to the high school, relocated the administration building and buying property for current and future projects rounded out the list.
In coming months, the district will again consult the community to find out what the community’s will is regarding the list of identified priorities.
“The board is taking that information from the committee and doing more thoughtful processes,” said O’Neil. “They plan to talk to more people about what should be done, if it should be done. They are launching another series of listening tours to have those conversations.”
During a listening tour, school board members and district personnel hold small community meetings in places like coffee shops and private homes to hear what people have to say about their hopes for the district.
“We hope to start mid-August and wrap them up by the begging of October,” said O’Neil. “There’s options in the next steps. We will ask, ‘Do you want to have a bond election? Do you not want that? Do you want to wait? Do you want to do something else?’”
After the community input-gathering process is completed in October, said school district superintendent Ken Hoover, the board will start figuring out the next steps.
Priorities and Prices
The following list is the result of a year-long project on the part of a community Capital Facilities Steering Committee, a group of volunteers that spent more than a year touring the entire school district and compiling a list of its needs. The financial figures are based on estimates; those numbers will continue to be refined.
The projects appear in the order of the level of priority assigned by the committee, as well as various groups that reviewed the work of the committee.
Park Place Middle School Modernization $60 to $65 million
Fund Small Capital and Major Maintenance Needs $3 to $6 million
Consolidate and Expand Frank Wagner Elementary $14 to $16 million
Expand Hidden River Middle (Phase III) $12 to $15 million
Reduce Use of Portable Classrooms District Wide $5 to $10 million
All Weather Ball Fields at Monroe High $3.5 million
Modernize Salem Woods Elementary $25 to $28 million
Relocate Administration Building $8 to $9 million
Purchase Property for Current or Future Projects $1 to $5 million
Sub-total $131.5 to $157.5 million
Less State Construction Assistance Funds $20 million (approx.)
Less Impact Mitigation Funds $0.75 million (approx.)
Total $110.75 to $136.75 million