The Lakota School Board’s Master Facilities committee held its quarterly meeting on Nov. 17. Responding to a request from the Board at the last meeting, Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge updated the committee on enrollment data and capital improvement projects.
Since 2019, two enrollment studies have been prepared for the district, one from McKibben Demographics and from Future Think. Passarge shared actual enrollment data from 2018 through the current school year, including a comparison to the enrollment studies’ predictions. He cautioned the Board to consider that “the (COVID-19) pandemic impacted the community, including education, in a variety of ways. There is no way to fully understand the true impacts on actual and future district enrollment.”
Items to note about the report include:
- During our current school year, Lakota has surpassed both forecast’s predictions;
- Enrollment increases at the early childhood schools have been relatively flat after an initial increase in the 2019-2020 school year;
- Most growth can be found along the 747 corridor;
- The most growth for the elementary schools has come in the last three years, with an uptick of about 550 students, especially at Adena, Cherokee and Freedom;
- The junior schools, with the exception of Ridge, have peaked and are now seeing a slight decline in enrollment; and
- At the high schools, West has seen a steady increase in enrollment while East has remained relatively flat.
“I’d like the Board to consider either going out on our own (to) do our own and pay for demographic study or go through the ELPP (Expedited Local Partnership Program) and have the OFCC (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) do it,” said Passarge. “We’re at the point now where we need to get better numbers.” After further discussion, the Board asked Passarge to research additional demographic companies for comparison.
The discussion then turned to capital improvement plans, specifically for the 10 schools that would eventually be decommissioned with the currently approved Master Facilities Plan (MFP). Passarge shared that the district spends between $3 million and $3.5 million dollars each year in this area, with about $2.1 million earmarked for parking lots and roofing alone. He and his team do building walkthroughs with the principals in early spring to determine what the specific needs are for each school.
Passarge also noted that, since the facilities planning process began in 2018, he and his team have continued to maintain the general upkeep of these buildings, as well as making repairs. “I know that there is sometimes the perception that we’re not doing anything in these buildings. That’s not the truth.”
The district is now at the point where there are a few significant projects that need to be completed at some of these buildings, including West Freshman. “A patch is not going to get us by for the next few years,” Passarge told the Board. Roofing and flooding are two examples.
Additional projects include installing security cameras in schools without them over the next year and the plumbing and drainage issues at Adena Elementary. Shawnee, Heritage and Woodland, which all share the same roof, are experiencing issues over the covered walkways leading up to the entrances.
“What we’re trying to bring to the attention of everyone here is that the PI (permanent improvement) fund is probably not going to make it for us longer term,” Passarge told the Board. “We’re going to have to look at using the rainy day fund or some general fund dollars to help support some of these capital improvement projects.” The rainy day fund is the result of the board policy 6217, the Budget Stabilization policy, which requires reserve funds be set aside to address unexpected expenditures if needed.
Possible Facilities Plan Timelines
Passarge reviewed possible timelines for the master facilities plan construction. Each timeline is based on the passage of a hypothetical bond issue at various dates and begins with additions and renovations to both East and West high schools. If and when the community supports a bond issue, it would require an additional 18 months of planning until construction would begin at the high schools. Additional construction would follow, with slight overlaps on each project. These include:
- Additions and renovations to high schools;
- Converting Plains and East Freshman to middle schools;
- Construction of two new elementary schools; and
- Construction of the final two elementary schools.
The grade bands would be as follows:
- Standalone preschool;
- 6-8; and
Passarge also accounted for a 3-4 percent increase in costs for each additional year until construction would begin.
Finally, Passarge also included potential capital expenditure savings based on when construction might begin. He also stressed that the figures shown on the document only account for the construction and renovation costs associated with the building and renovating the schools shown. “These are educated guesses based on what we have planned out,” he told the Board. He also confirmed that the numbers do not reflect the 30 percent refund the district could receive if the Board decides to partner with the OFCC through ELPP.
“You have to remember that the master plan from the OFCC’s perspective looks at not only this but upgrading every single one of your buildings to the current design manual. That’s where we get that $500 million number from,” Passarge explained, referring to the estimated cost of the full master facilities plan. He stressed that, although the OFCC-approved master plan will include the entire cost, it will be divided into projects that will be completed over several years. “Eventually we’ll make those updates, but we’re not going to ask our community for that money now, for work we need to do 10 years down the road.”
“I think it’s really important to understand that we’re starting to be at capacity at many of our buildings,” said Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli. “We’re expecting teachers to do personalized learning. We’re expecting teachers to do small group instruction and still be able to meet the needs of students in the classrooms Yet we’re at 28, 29 students in a classroom and no place to create new classrooms. It’s not that we’re not trying to have another teacher added, we just don’t have the space for the classroom.” Lolli cautioned the Board that, with all of the new housing developments being built in both West Chester and Liberty townships, enrollment will continue to grow and decisions need to be made. “We’re at a critical point and we’re talking five years with the (bond issue), the design and the building.”
Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Adam Zink shared with the Board that, since fiscal year 2019, Lakota is up 2,200 students. “This is the first time in the (five-year) forecast we’ve actually forecasted in student growth. The growth keeps happening.”
The Board has requested that Passarge and his team put together a proposal for needed expenditures in order to assess whether or not to apply dollars from the rainy day fund.
Passarge will also research firms to complete an updated enrollment study.
The next committee meeting will be determined at the Board’s organizational meeting in January.
- school board