Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reminder: Closing Hoover costs over ten million dollars

One of the district’s main goals, in its facilities planning process, was to address overcrowding in its schools, many of which (including Hoover) currently have so many kids that they need temporary classrooms. Yet the school board ultimately decided to make closing Hoover part of its plan. Closing a school, of course, makes it harder to address overcrowding. Because it is closing Hoover, the board needs to build that much more capacity elsewhere. Its plan, for example, builds additions at Longfellow and Mann elementaries that together cost almost $16 million – over and above the cost of the renovations and air conditioning that everyone agrees those schools should get. Even if you discount the $3.5 million that it would cost to renovate Hoover if it were kept open, the closure is costing roughly $12 million—while adding no new capacity at all.

That twelve million dollars could be spent on real needs—for example, on projects that actually add elementary capacity. (Or it could be saved entirely.)

It costs twelve million dollars, it adds no capacity, it will delay and endanger other projects in the plan, it hurts the surrounding neighborhood, it violates the expectations raised by the Revenue Purpose Statement vote and the clear public preferences expressed at the community workshops, it makes it harder to pass the necessary bond, and it closes a school that is ideally located to meet the district’s diversity goals without running a single bus. Why does anyone think this closure is a good idea?


Anonymous said...

Your numbers, Chris, sound off, as they have been in the past. The cost to renovate Hoover's 304 seats is $5 million. The cost to demolish Hoover and build 500 new seats is $15 million. Since only 300 of the new seats replace Hoover seats, the cost to replace the Hoover seats is $9.2 million (including the demolition). The cost difference between new ($9.2 million) and renovating ($5.1 million) is $4.1 million. There would be some additional expense for temporary improvements to Hoover before demolition. Are these estimated at $1.5 million? If so, $4.1 million plus $1.5 million = $5.6 million, a far cry from the $12 million that you state in this blog post.

Chris said...

Anonymous: I disagree. If you're going to save money by keeping Hoover open, you would do it by cancelling the most expensive new capacity that you would otherwise have to build. In this case, that's the Mann and Longfellow additions, which between them cost $15.7 million and add only 330 seats (not that much more than you're losing at Hoover). (That 15.7M is over and above what it would take just to renovate those schools.)

If they keep Hoover open, they'll spend $5M to renovate it. If they close it, they'll spend 15.7M to build additions, 1M to do short-term renovations to Hoover, and .5M to demolish Hoover. That means closing Hoover costs roughly $12.2 million dollars.

Using the Mann and Longfellow additions as the basis of the comparison is particularly apt, since the board members keep telling us that Hoover is being closed as part of an effort to "right-size" elementary schools and that Hoover is unnecessary because there are too many schools in the central east side area. How are there "too many schools" if Hoover's closure has to be offset by adding 330 seats to Mann and Longfellow?

What is incorrect about this analysis? And how have my numbers been off in the past?