Sunday, September 20, 2015

School Planning Pace is Too Slow

The Sun Prairie school district initiated a Space Planning project late last fall.  Formal meetings began in February 2015 and then ended abruptly on June 2nd 2015.  Granted there were a few balls being juggled what with the need to get a solid school district administrator in place (Check!) and then the district hired an architectural firm to help "really look at what we have".  Then we had 3.5 months of no news whatsoever.  This week, however a "first" meeting (WTHWT?  a "reboot"?) was held of the School Space Planning committee.  The whole public was invited to join.  Postcards went out to every resident.  And we got 100-110 people.  Anyone want to guess how much that number will be whittled down by the time the next meeting comes?

Now the call is for a lengthy process culminating in June with a target to go to referendum In November 2016.  The date is a good one because it coincides with the Presidential election which is sure to bring the healthiest number of voters out.

But...a lengthy process?  As Sweet Brown said, "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!".
Look, we totally get it.  We need to keep the community informed and get buy-in.  We need to explore all options.  But no one said that "explore" requires lengthy discussion.  If one puts all options on the table, they might incude such approaches as:

  • increasing class target sizes by 1-3 kids/classroom (teachers and parents should love that)
  • running split schedules (some kids go say 7-1 and others 1-7) (aint nobody got time for that)
  • purchase or rent portable classrooms (the District of Choice uses portables?
  • move 5th graders into the middle schools or 7th grade up to CHUMs (maybe...but that means TWO boundary changes...excusing us for using the B" word)
  • Add on to existing schools. (that violates the long-term policy of school sizes, doesn't help much, and costs much the same as building new)
And there are many other options, but none comes without as much "Con" as "Pro" and they all merely kick the can down the road.  We're waiting time.  The otions have all been tallied.  It's time the School Board (Ms. Hansen are you available?) it down in a special session and just vote each one out.   Let's face the reality. folks.  We WILL need to build more classrooms.  Might as well get used to that idea.  If we weren't planning on building new schools, why on earth are we about to hire a construction FIRM (not a construction MANAGER...been there, done that...didn't end well).
LOOK AT THE DATA people.  We had 5 of 7 elementary schools over capacity last year, we're already at 6 of 7 this year because again we got at least 50 more new kids than projected.  WE NEED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SPACE NOW!  So let's just agree on that an move forward.  And based on projection, even if we started now, we project to have at least 1/2 of a full elementary school of new kids before the school could even open!

Just do the math.  7 elementary schools and 3545 kids this year. That's 507 kids per school! Do we really ant to have more than 500 per school?  If we want to be like LA, New York, or Chicago...maybe.  And that's now.   If we build just ONE new school in 4 years there will be an average of 460 kids in each of 8 elementary schools.  And that assumes we add kids at exactly the UW projection rate (and they do NOT factor in new home construction!).  We've been above the curve nearly every year.  So wouldn't it be better to just go ahead and build 2 elementary We're quite certain building 2 elementary school at once is cheaper than one and then another in 4-5 years.

Another high's time.
Yep, the time is finally starting to come.  And we were staunch opponents of the two high school option back in 2006-07.  We put it off for 10 years so far, but at the rate this community is growing, we WILL need another high school in 5 to 8 years.  Why not build it now?  We have the land.

What's it all going to cost?
The cost for an elementary school is likely around $20M including staff (another principal, office staff, more teachers, support staff).
Can we get on for less?  Yes. absolutely, but it would have to be less frilly than Creekside or Horizon.
In fact, the 2015 Annual Construction Report indicate that the MEDIAN elementary school cost in this region is $16M.  A median high school would cost about $55M.  Let's say $60M with staff.c

That means with 2 elementary schools and a high school, the tab would run $100M.
Don't you think we need to get real about this figure and start letting it sink in?

We do not have the time or energy to fiddly fart around on this.  We know what we want to do.  Yes, some will be opposed (these things are never 100% yes).  So let's work from here to get people on board for a 3-school $100M project.