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Master Facilities Plan: Next Steps

Master Facilities Plan: Next Steps

Lakota’s Master Facilities Committee met on March 6, 2023 to begin reviewing possible locations for new buildings that would align with the approved Master Facilities Plan (MFP). At its December meeting, the Board of Education approved the MFP, which includes shifting the district’s grade bands to one standalone preschool, kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and ninth through twelfth grade high schools. The plan’s building configuration would include one new kindergarten through fifth grade school and two new high schools

Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge led the committee through topographic surveys, site layouts, proposed attendance zones and other options for the Board to consider. The proposed sites include the acreage located at the current Hopewell Junior and Early Childhood schools (ECS), Liberty Junior and Woodland schools, West Freshman, Creekside ECS and Lakota Central schools and Plains and VanGorden schools. The Plains and VanGorden location also includes acreage surrounding Lakota’s Central Office.

Topography Study

Passarge opened the discussion with the topography of each site, noting that this is an overhead look at the land so that the committee could discuss the challenges and opportunities of each. As a comparison, Lakota East’s site layout was used, measuring slightly over 62 acres. The West main campus occupies close to 56 acres.

Proposed Locations to Consider for Lakota East High School:

  • Hopewell Junior and ECS: The land is fairly flat, but there is a creek that must be taken into consideration. The acreage owned by Lakota is U-shaped and the district must be considerate of the church that sits between the junior and early childhood schools.
  • Liberty Junior and Woodland Elementary schools: These buildings also sit on a fairly large, flat parcel of land. However, the space is also shared with the district’s service center and bus garage.

Proposed Locations to Consider for Lakota West High School:

  • Plains Junior, VanGorden Elementary and Central Office: This land, which surrounds Central Office, Plains Junior and VanGorden Elementary schools, has some rolling hills, but is mostly flat. The hills would require site work. While this is a large lot, it also includes the three existing buildings that would need to be considered.
  • West Freshman, Creekside and Lakota Central: This is the most challenging in terms of topography, with a prominent grade behind the existing schools before the land becomes flat again.

Site Layouts

Shifting to potential site layouts, Passarge pointed out that all of the plans include a three-story high school, which differs from Lakota’s current two-story structures. Each potential site also includes space limitations regarding athletic facilities and current parking availability. He further cautioned that this is only a first look at the sites and more research is needed, as well as having additional ideas for the Board to consider, which he shared at the end of the meeting.

Proposed Locations to Consider for Lakota East High School:

  • Hopewell Junior and ECS: At just over 56 acres, the Hopewell site can accommodate the new high school, parking, baseball and softball fields, a track and multipurpose field and one other, standalone multipurpose field. However, there is not enough room to include tennis courts. While the layout does include multipurpose fields, its use for soccer and other needs could be limited. Passarge shared with the Board that applying for a zone change to allow for tennis courts in one area of the proposed parking lot could be a consideration.
  • Liberty Junior and Woodland Elementary schools: While flat, at just over 48 acres, this site lacks the space for baseball, soccer and tennis. Using this land would also displace the district’s transportation, service center and child nutrition departments. If the district chose to keep the transportation, service center and child nutrition departments on this site, the acreage would decrease to nearly 37 acres. This would not leave room for any athletic facilities on the site.

Proposed Locations to Consider for Lakota West High School:

  • Plains Junior, VanGorden Elementary and Central Office: This land measures approximately 92.5 acres, but includes three buildings that would remain in use with the approved plan. Again, tennis courts would not be built at this site due to space limitations. While there is not room for a separate soccer field, Passarge told the Board that playing the games on the football field would be a consideration. 
  • West Freshman, Creekside and Lakota Central: The 43 available acres at West Freshman, which includes Creekside ECS and Lakota Central, would require more topography studies and extensive work. Without that evaluation, the site could accommodate a multi-use field that includes a track, as well as a softball field. There is not adequate space to replicate the current number of parking spaces for a Lakota high school. In order to meet the parking needs, the stadium would need to be eliminated from this plan.

Attendance Boundaries

Passarge shared with the committee that the operations team, along with architects from VSWC, considered current attendance zones, the size of the buildings and available land when considering possible changes to boundaries. The attendance boundaries for grades 9-12 did not change for this first look.

In addition to repurposing many existing schools into K-5 buildings, the approved plan includes one new large K-5 building and two new high schools. With the proposed new K-5 building able to accommodate nearly 1,600 students, it would be about double the size of other buildings for this grade band. Passarge offered two suggestions: The building could be located on either the current Hopewell sites or the current Shawnee ECS land; or the Board could consider building two smaller schools more aligned with the other proposed K-5 buildings. These schools could be built on the Shawnee land and either the current Hopewell ECS or Adena Elementary sites. If the Board chose to use the Hopewell land, the proposed new high school would need to be built elsewhere.

Possible Considerations

Although not initially discussed with the MFP, in addition to splitting the new K-5 building into two smaller schools, Passarge offered other ideas to explore, while keeping the same approved grade bands.

If the Board wanted to explore land options beyond those currently owned by the district, Passarge shared large areas of potential acreage in both West Chester and Liberty townships. Options in West Chester are severely limited.

In Liberty Township, the property next to Lakota East High School is for sale. Passarge suggested that the site could be used for a new high school while using the current athletic facilities to meet the extracurricular needs of the school. However, Passarge cautioned that this option would include the district purchasing additional property.

Surrounding the Liberty Junior and Woodland Elementary site, Passarge suggested that the district could see if a community partner would be willing to work with the district. The other lots are owned by private businesses, including a church. 

Furthermore, the committee discussed the impact on partner organizations that use our land for their events, such as recreational sports leagues. Passarge assured the committee that this has been discussed and suggested that discussions with the impacted organizations would take place to see what alternatives are available.

Passarge also asked if the Board would be willing to consider other alternatives, such as adding additions onto the current high schools to fulfill the needs of the 9-12 schools. If possible, this would alleviate the need for two land parcels that could provide enough land to build new athletic facilities, parking and a three-story high school. 

Additions on the current high schools would require the district to build two new middle schools. While this option still calls for two new schools, the 6-8 grade band would not require as many athletic facilities. For example, neither baseball, softball or soccer are offered at the junior school level. This would eliminate the need for these fields to be built.

Another suggestion would be adding additions to the current high schools for grades 9-12 as well as onto Plains Junior and the East Freshman building. Plains and East Freshman would then become middle schools for grades 6-8 instead of K-5 schools as called for in the approved plan. Although this option would require additional K-5 buildings, primary schools are less expensive to build than secondary.

“Additions could be a lower-cost alternative that I would like to explore that keeps our K-5, 6-8, 9-12 concept that we’ve agreed upon so far,” said Passarge.

Lynda O’Connor, president of the Lakota Board of Education, said, “I am interested in any options that we have for saving money as long as we think that’s going to be effective and more efficient.” O’Connor also noted that additions to the high schools, which she liked, were included in a previous option the committee originally considered. She is also concerned that there is not an option that completely replicates the layout of the current East and West high schools, including athletic facilities and parking. 

Board member Julie Shaffer shared O’Connor’s concern about not being able to replicate the layout of the current high school sites. Shaffer would like the high schools to be “the most agile” in order to adapt to changing educational needs. “We need to be agile enough to meet whatever changes come down the pike because none of us can anticipate what’s going to happen in the next 20 years.” Shaffer believes an expansion could accomplish this at both the high school and junior school levels.

With the Board’s support, Passarge will begin to explore these additional options for the committee to review at a future meeting.

View all documents reviewed at March 6 MFP committee meeting.

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