You can find the answers to all of those questions—and many others—in this Q&A on the bond.
- Why Lyseth?
- Why four classrooms at Ocean Ave?
- Won't the work at Reiche make it ineligible for state funding?
- How did you choose the other projects to include in this bond?
- If we go with this $24 million bond, how and when will we fix the other schools?
- What's up with the state funding? I heard we aren't getting any.
- The state will never fund more than one school. Why not just apply for the high schools and take care of the elementary schools now?
- But our schools are crumbling. What about all this deferred maintenance I keep hearing about?
- We have to start somewhere, and these schools need work. Why not just pass this bond and get started?
Of the four elementary schools being proposed for renovations, Lyseth is the least likely to qualify for state funding. This was true in the 2010-2011 application cycle when it placed 43rd on the state list—last of the five school applications Portland submitted—and it is true according to the most recent analysis completed by Sebago Technics, in which Lyseth placed 4th of the four elementary schools that were scored.
The schools that were deemed to have the best chance of receiving state funding by Sebago Technics are as follows (in order of points earned):
1. Reiche Elementary (58)
2. Longfellow Elementary (56)
3. Presumpscot Elementary (54)
4. Lyseth Elementary (53)
5. PATHS (52)
6. Portland High School (51)
7. Casco Bay High School (46)
8. Deering High School (44)
By working on Lyseth first, we will preserve the possibility of obtaining state funding for one or more of the other three elementary schools being considered in the larger bond.
As city operations staff have pointed out, the site plans and permitting for Lyseth are at 65% completion. With this preliminary work already underway, site work could start in early spring of 2018.
Lyman Moore, which is situated on the same campus as Lyseth, has the capacity to create a 5th grade wing during the construction project, so we have a place to put 5th graders which allows shuffling of other students within Lyseth for minimal disruption.
The completion of Lyseth will add capacity and eliminate the use of modulars at the school.
The construction of these four classrooms must take place before we can begin construction on the other elementary schools.
At present, with the $64 million bond, there is no plan for housing students dislocated by the construction—and students will be displaced by the construction. So before construction can begin on the other elementary schools, swing space must be added within the district. With these four classrooms added, that swing space will be created.
The engineering has already been done for this work, which means it can be completed very quickly.
Again, without this added swing space in the system, we cannot begin renovating the other elementary schools without serious disruption to the educational programs of their students.
Additionally, with this added capacity in the system, schools which are at or above capacity can find some relief through enrollment management.
* Hall School is being designed with the ability to add eight classrooms at a future date.
While the state would not consider an application for a school that has been locally bonded for large scale renovations or capital construction, there is a hold harmless clause in the law that assures school districts they will not lose points in the application process if they do work that relates to the health and safety of the students.
The Reiche ramp on the Brackett Street side of Reiche represents such a project. It is in need of repair, and it doesn’t make sense to wait several years to address this issue.
For this project, the ramp will come down and a new entrance and staircase will be installed. The second story will be enclosed, further separating the community from the school.
When this plan was explained to Scott Brown, who oversees the Major School Capital Construction application process, he said he didn't hear anything that would cause concern.
It relieves some pressure on the CIP and puts us in an excellent position to continue addressing the pressing needs at our other school facilities through our annual Capital Improvement Plan.
By the summer of 2018, we’ll know which of our schools will receive state funding, and once we have that information, we can create a plan that makes the best use of local tax dollars and state funding to address our system’s longer term needs, including large scale renovations at some schools.
The system wide facilities analysis that was drafted in November of 2016, and which is nearing completion now after several rounds of back and forth between Sebago Technics engineers and city operations staff, will be incredibly helpful as we make this plan. It will lay out for us year by year what we must tackle in order to keep our buildings safe, healthy, and structurally sound, so that we can continue prioritizing and completing projects.
In December, Superintendent Xavier Botana testified before the State Board of Education that Reiche and Longfellow both stood an excellent chance at receiving state funding in the current application cycle (2017-2018).
Superintendent Botana was before the State Board of Education in an attempt to obtain a guarantee of state funding for Longfellow and Reiche in advance of the new application cycle. He included the following statements in his testimony. (You read Superintendent Botana’sfull testimony here.)
“Past history suggests that the chances are good for schools in Longfellow and Reiche’s position to receive state funding in the next round. A review of the 2001 list shows that out of the 5 schools just below the funding cut off, 3 of those schools received funding in the subsequent round. Of the remaining two schools, Peru Elementary School was consolidated with another school in Canton and SAD 28, Rockport came off the list because it became a locally funded project. Of the 5 schools just below the funding cut off for the 2004 list, 4 out of the 5 received funding in the 2010 round.”
“In other words, it is reasonable to expect that these schools, given their past trajectory and given the pressing needs (remember: 21 million in the next 10 years) as determined by our recent engineering report, will likely be funded in the next round.”
“...no responsible stewards of public funds could finalize plans without knowing whether they needed to stretch available resources over 4 projects or concentrate on 2. And no responsible planners could forego the opportunity to advocate for State support knowing that history suggests a high likelihood that our projects will soon be funded by the state, knowing that there may not be enough local funds available to fully address the needs of 4 separate schools without state funding.”
- In the 2004-05 funding cycle, both Mallett Elementary ($14.5 million) and Mt. Blue High School/Foster Vocational Center ($56.6 million) were fully funded by the state. Both schools are in the Mt. Blue Regional School District.
- In the 2010-2011 funding cycle, three Sanford schools were chosen for funding by the state: Sanford High/Vocational Center ($100.2 million), Emerson Elementary School, and Lafayette Elementary School (bond figures not yet determined).
- In the 2010-2011 funding cycle, two Newport schools were funded: Nokomis High School and Newport Elementary School ($69 million for both schools).
Second, we don’t know which of our schools will be the best candidate for state funding.
Our schools have occasionally shifted in terms of which of them have placed highest on the state list from year to year (Figure 1, below), so we don’t always know which school will be ranked highest on the list.
Despite this “internal shifting,” however, it is important to note that our schools have consistently moved up on the state list (Figure 2, below), getting closer and closer to state funding with each cycle.
There is no doubt that the four elementary schools included in the BFOF plan have deferred maintenance, as is the case with virtually every City and School asset.
However, Oak Point Associates, who developed the BFOF [Buildings For Our Future plan for the four elementary schools being considered for a $64 million bond], identified a little under $5.5 million in deferred maintenance in the four schools. That accounts for around 8.5% of the $64 million project.
To add weight to that data, the recently completed school facilities assessment identified less than $175,000 in immediate needs at the four schools and $8.1 million over the next 5 years. It is very clear that deferred maintenance is NOT driving the BFOF proposal.
In fact, Superintendent Botana requested that Emily Figdor, a leader of Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, stay away from the “significant deferred maintenance” language when they were working together to craft the flyer that went home in students backpacks earlier this year. In an email* commenting on a draft of the flyer Figdor had provided, he wrote:
I would prefer to eliminate the language about "significant investments" not being made.
"Significant" is fairly subjective. At both Presumpscot and Lyseth the principals went out of their way to talk about the many improvements in their physical plant in recent years (mechanics, new windows, etc.).
Note that we just received a facility assessment for all of our buildings and the four schools have differing levels of needs (i.e., Reiche has large needs, Presumpscot not so much) and non-BFOF schools have much larger needs than most of the BFOF schools. So, focusing on delayed investments in those four schools begs the question about the other delayed investments. So, I would prefer to steer away from the delayed needs/upkeep and focus on the 21st Century Learning needs.
So while there is maintenance to be performed at all of our schools, the depiction that they are crumbling or that the $64 million bond must be passed in order to address deferred maintenance is false.
*You can read the full email (along with Figdor's response) here.
Over the next 20 years, there are $64 million in capital improvements to be made at Longfellow, Lyseth, Reiche, and Presumpscot as identified in the system wide school facilities assessment that was completed in December 2016.
The $64 million bond, using the plans created by Oak Point Associates for the four targeted schools, would only address between $25-37 million of those needs.
That means that after all renovations are completed per the Buildings For Our Future plan, there will still be between $27-$39 million in capital needs to address at these four schools.
Of course, it's more likely that the plans for the schools will be adjusted during the design phase in order to address the buildings' needs, and that means that while the first two schools could probably be built, we would find ourselves short on funding to complete the third and fourth schools. And since we'll have foregone our opportunity for state funding, we'll need to pursue another bond in order to complete the work.
Either that, or we follow the plans as they are and leave theses four schools with $27-$39 million in capital needs, even after major construction is complete. Either way, this bond doesn't add up.