What is the Facility Master Plan (FMP) Process?
The District’s Master Plan Process is our journey to Reimagine, Re-envision, and Reinvest in our Cedar Rapids Community School District students and school facilities. It is based on several factors, including:
- ever-increasing pressure on funding streams to support facility needs and improvements,
- potential replacement of schools,
- the possibility of needing new school facilities,
- necessary changes within the learning environment, and
- the location of District families within the community.
The process includes public input sessions, FMP committee meetings, and updates to the Board of Education, culminating with a recommendation to the Board of Education in December, 2017.
What is the function of the FMP Committee?
Because of the complexity of the process, a Committee of stakeholders was formed to engage in large group conversations as well as more focused small-group work to examine and analyze District needs. The 85-member committee is made up of community leaders, parents, employees, students, and other interested community members. The committee work is fluid through a series of meetings, group discussions, and activities; multiple opportunities for community input are also provided. Phase 1 of Committee work began in September 2016. Click HERE to access the flowchart of the FMP timeline and supporting documents.
Why do we need to make changes to our facilities?
We have an aging inventory which requires us to strategically and boldly re-imagine how to re-invest in our infrastructure. The committee has used belief statements to guide the work to provide future ready learning environments for our students and staff, and more recently to think of community hubs throughout the community that could be used for a variety of purposes while school is not in session. We are also considering a new fiscal approach to addressing facility and operating costs, and aim to provide opportunity to achieve optimal class sizes.
Why is this the time to consider significant changes?
We are in an era of diminishing public resources needed to operate our facilities. This is a reality facing school districts nationwide. Diminishing public resources, the age of our facilities, and the costs associated with operating aging facilities were three factors which initiated a re-examination of our facilities and necessitated a formation of a Facilities Master Plan. Like many school districts throughout the decades, CRCSD has generally relied on various approaches to maintaining facilities which included construction of additions to aging inventory, frequent repairs to outdated systems and infrastructure, and costly updates to aged facilities to meet ADA compliance.
These approaches are costly due, in part, to the age of our facilities. Maintenance and repair costs now equal or exceed 75% of the cost of building completely new facilities in 18 of our 21 elementary buildings. Consideration for replacing an “old” building with a new structure begins when maintenance and repair costs exceed 50% of building new.
While economic factors initiated the conversation regarding a re-examination of our facilities, as we adopted a new proactive academic vision of Every Learner: Future Ready, it became important to CRCSD and the FMP Committee that we consider how we may use a fiscally imperative adjustment to facilities to also re-imagine how we could proactively and strategically design sustainable infrastructure that would lead to optimal academic experiences for our students and staff. This conversation was guided by the Committee’s Belief Statements (see attached).
Where is the Committee currently in the process?
A great deal of consideration over the course of a year has led to general agreement within the Committee that 13 elementary schools designed to serve approximately 600 students would provide for optimal class sizes, allow students with special needs or ELL students a more likely chance to attend their neighborhood school, support the needs of staff, and create community hubs which don’t currently exist and which could serve as neighborhood anchors with spaces available to the public outside of school hours. This general outline remains malleable, with refinements and adjustments still to be made during remaining Committee meetings and with considerations that emerge from community input sessions.
How will this plan lead to a cost savings for our school district?
CRCSD analyzed the current operating costs of 21 elementary buildings and compared these costs to operating fewer elementary buildings. The Committee’s current plan-in-progress amounts to a $2.9 million annual “savings.” This “savings” would, in fact, be utilized as a re-investment in our schools to improve educational programming and student and staff experiences.
What are advantages to building new elementary schools, rather than retrofitting our current infrastructure?
While retrofitted infrastructure would allow for ADA compliance and improvement in facilities in areas such as a secure front entrance; modernized heating, cooling, and ventilation; and improved library spaces. Keeping smaller schools does not address challenges such as significant variance in class sizes across the district, grade level sharing of students, special education or English Learners attending their neighborhood school, and sharing of specials teachers. It also does not create operational savings that can be reinvested back in schools.
What are advantages to building larger elementary schools?
While it may seem counterintuitive, as schools increase in size, it’s more likely that class sizes decrease or, at minimum, are stabilized across the district. The current iteration of the plan-in-progress—to construct larger, modernized elementary schools and decrease the current inventory—would provide the opportunity to even out class sizes in our elementary schools and reach a more optimal student/teacher ratio.
If a plan which includes building new schools is approved by the School Board, where will the new schools be built?
It would be preferred that any new facilities would be built on existing sites.
What are your plans for any unique architectural or historical details of our current elementary school facilities?
We appreciate historical/unique architectural elements of existing structures and would be open to investigating options to incorporate those elements into new infrastructure.
How soon will changes be made to our schools if the Board approves a FMP plan in December?
If the plan allows for new construction of elementary schools, that construction would likely not begin earlier than 2020. It would likely take approximately 18-24 months for planning and construction of one school, therefore, a plan involving construction of a number of schools would be a 15- to 20-year journey. No school closures, associated with the FMP, would occur before the first new school is constructed.