Saturday, September 21, 2013

Closing Hoover will delay and endanger other facilities projects

Closing Hoover Elementary will delay other needed projects in the district’s long-term plan, and may prevent some of them from happening at all, for two reasons.

First, it’s very expensive. If you tear down over three hundred seats of capacity while enrollment is growing, you have to rebuild them elsewhere. At the same time the district is planning to tear down Hoover, it’s planning to spend over fifteen million dollars to add roughly the same number of seats to Mann and Longfellow. If Hoover stays open, that’s fifteen million dollars that could go toward other projects, improving other schools. (Granted, some of it may have to go toward improving Hoover – but at most a third of it, and many of those improvements are supposed to occur even if Hoover eventually closes.)

Keep in mind that the district does not have enough money to do all the projects in its plan. It would have to get voter approval for about $100 million in bonds to do them all. Moreover, school boards come and go, and plans can change. Any project that gets put off may never happen at all.

Second, by tying the Mann and Longfellow improvements (such as air conditioning and multi-purpose rooms) to large capacity additions, the plan almost guarantees that those schools will have to wait much longer for the improvements. This is partly because the price tag is so much higher; the district can afford only so many big-ticket items, and can’t do all of them at once. But it’s also because the capacity additions can’t happen until there is a place to put the kids during the year that it takes to do the renovations. We’re already overcrowded, so there won’t be any place to put those kids until a lot more additional capacity is up and running elsewhere.

Without the capacity additions, Mann and Longfellow could have their air conditioning relatively soon. With them, they’ll have to wait for years, and they’ll have to wonder if the money and political support will still be there when their turn arrives – all so they can make their school populations dramatically larger, which is not something I’ve heard any families from those schools clamoring for. And other schools may have to wait longer for improvements, too, because the Hoover closure will be crowding out the funding.

Prioritizing the projects in the plan is going to be a hard, controversial process. Closing Hoover just makes it that much harder.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it actually be the AC and making the schools ADA compliant that will/would delay them. Unlike an addition or MPR which can be done while kids continue to attend (see Horn Addition or CHS Art wing), completely overhauling the school to provide AC and conform with ADA compliance will require the school to be taken out of service for a year.

Chris said...

Anonymous -- Thanks for the comment. I don't think that's the case. There was no talk about needing "swing schools" (i.e., temporary locations) for Mann and Longfellow until the addition was put into the proposal. Moreover, the long-term plan includes HVAC and accessibility renovations for numerous schools, including Coralville Central, Lincoln, Lucas, Shimek, Twain, and Wood, but no one (to my knowledge) has suggested that we would need swing schools for each one of those projects.

But I'm open to being corrected if someone has more specific information. The two-page summary of the plan doesn't specify when or where swing schools are needed.

Chris said...

And to clarify: The “over fifteen million dollar” figure that I’ve used for the cost of the additions is above and beyond the cost of the improvements (such as air conditioning). It’s derived from comparing the plan that contains the additions with earlier scenarios (such as Scenario 1c) that did not contain them.

Scenario 1c contained improvements at both schools for HVAC, accessibility, and multi-purpose rooms, among other things, and the combined cost for the Mann and Longfellow renovations was $9.8 million. The plan the board adopted is for “historical renovations” that presumably include HVAC, as well as gymnasiums and classroom additions, and the combined cost is $25.5 million. I don’t know to what extent the improvements in the new plan differ from those in Scenario 1c – is a gymnasium much different from a “multi-purpose room”? – but going back to the Scenario 1c improvements and eliminating the additions would reduce the cost by over fifteen million dollars.

Mandy said...

Aren't ADA and HVAC rennovations planned for both CHS and WSH? I'm assuming those schools won't be closed while those rennovations are being done or at least I haven't heard that would happen.

Chris said...

Mandy – Yes, I think that’s true. I don’t know for sure, but my sense is that the plans for additions to Longfellow and Mann involve essentially gutting the existing buildings as well as adding capacity, and that the Scenario 1c plan would have made improvements without doing that. The plans for Longfellow and Mann are almost as expensive as building *two* new elementary schools from scratch, yet they result in only 330 additional seats total, and as a result are by far the most expensive new capacity in the long-term plan.