Lay Facilities Committee seeks to narrow options, requests community input
The Lay Facilities Committee (LFC) has produced a community survey and will hold three community meetings in March specifically to enable residents to comment on the school facilities process and ask questions of LFC members. At the next LFC meeting, scheduled for March 6 at Canterbury Elementary School, the LFC is expected to consider public input from the survey and decide which of six scenarios to ask district consultants to cost out.
At the LFC’s Feb. 13 meeting, the community subcommittee presented the final version of a community survey, which may be filled out online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CHUH_Lay_Facilities_Survey_2013. The group will also distribute the survey in-person to district PTAs, and at private and parochial schools, religious institutions, libraries and other community venues. The survey both examines broad opinions about the public school buildings and asks for opinions about specific scenarios, such as whether the district should reduce the number of middle schools to one or two.
Surveys must be completed by the end of the day on Saturday, March 2, in order for the subcommittee to compile the data by the March 6 meeting.
While all LFC meetings are open to the public, the LFC plans to hold three community meetings in March with the specific aim of engaging Heights residents in the process. “We will share the survey results—broad trends, at least, to let people know what we've done so far and what decisions we've made and why. We'll present the scenarios and spend most of the time engaging people in conversation,” said Krissy Dietrich-Gallagher, community subcommittee co-chair in an e-mail.
The meetings will be held Tuesday, March 12, at Wiley Middle School; Wednesday, March 13, at Roxboro Middle School; and Thursday, March 14, at Monticello Middle School. Each meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and last until 8:30 or 9 p.m., depending on the need.
“We haven't worked out details of any of this yet, but I think it's important for us to spend less time talking and more time listening,” said Dietrich-Gallagher.
At the LFC’s Jan. 29 meeting, Eric Silverman, co-chair of the buildings subcommittee, presented six possible school facilities scenarios. Each included three recommendations: keep the current grade configuration, don’t go “all-in” for the learning communities concept, and reduce the number of middle schools from three to no more than two.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, Silverman presented additional recommendations that applied to the elementary and middle schools in all scenarios: remove all postwar editions to prewar buildings and restore their façades to their original appearance, and make any new additions compatible with the historic architecture of the original structures. The group had no specific recommendations for Gearity and Wiley, which were built later, except to mention that the Wiley auditorium is a community asset. It recommended against the renovation of the 1970s footprint buildings.
The building subcommittee made several additional recommendations regarding renovations at the high school. The first was to remove the science wing and to make the view of the front façade pleasing from the street. “The high school is our showplace,” said Silverman. “Thousands of people drive by it every day and they form an impression of the school, the district and the community by what they see.”
The group recommended locating sports facilities on the west side of the building and areas with potential for community use on the east side. The south gym could be renovated and expanded to the west. Because the high school pool is the only indoor pool in the heights, the group recommended rebuilding it, expanding the changing areas, and linking it to a public entrance in order to better serve the community. Facilities with community-use potential, such as the library, meeting rooms, a small auditorium, and a café to enable culinary students to interact with the public, were suggested. Administrative offices would be housed here as well in order to provide easier access to parents. “This would increase access,” said Silverman, “while necessitating less of the building to have to be kept open during public use.”
The building subcommittee recommended seeking historic preservation tax credits to facilitate the restoration of important interior features, such as the auditorium, and exterior features, such as the clock tower. The group also wanted to house all Career and Technical Education programs on the high school site, rather than have them spread between the high school and the Delisle Center, as they are currently.
Overall, the group called for more renovation at the high school—rather than demolition and rebuilding—than was specified in Plan C, in order to save on construction costs and, potentially, to enable the district to house students onsite during renovation, rather than incurring swing-space costs. The group was more flexible about changes to spaces located at the rear of the building that couldn’t be seen from Cedar Road.
On Feb. 13, Sam Bell, chair of the sustainability working group, presented three items his group would like the consultants to include in each of the school facilities options. The first is a comprehensive demolition and waste management plan, which would plan for recycling construction materials, up-cycling some materials from demolition and proper disposal of the rest.
The second is alternative source readiness construction—the concept that the building design should be flexible and plan for the potential use of alternate power sources if and when they become available and desirable. This would include evaluating the use of known alternative technologies, such as solar and geothermal, as well as creating empty conduits in walls to enable connections to new technologies, without the need for deconstructing those walls in the future.
The third recommendation is that the project set high goals for energy efficiency and other sustainable practices, not just LEED Silver, which is the state minimum standard on new school construction.
Bell advocated that the district look into solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), a mechanism by which private investors will install and maintain solar panels with no cost to the district. These contracts would enable the district to lockin a fixed rate for energy costs or a floating rate. “There are similar PPAs for geothermal,” he said.
He also urged the district to pursue historic tax credits. He pointed out that the Lakewood school district, which is in the middle of a comprehensive school renovation project, has received significant dollars towards the project by using the historic tax credit mechanism.
Bell noted that operating costs eventually overshadow construction costs. “Spending 2 to 4 percent more in design cost at the beginning of a project will pay for itself in 12 to 24 months,” he said.
Bell’s group has created several position papers that he will post online at http://theciviccommons.com/conversations/ch-uh-school-facilities for the committee and the public to review.
The next LFC meeting is scheduled for March 6 at Canterbury Elementary School, 2530 Canterbury Road. Principal Stacey Stuhldreher has confirmed that the Canterbury community room is ADA accessible through the gym entrance.
For more information about the LFC and the school facilities process, visit www.chuhfacilities.org.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.