Planning for the mammoth $143 million school bond construction project promises to occupy much of the school board's time this year. Deciding where to start, how much money to spend and when to spend it will be ongoing issues the board will face this year, as the specifics of the planning take form.
The question of which school to start on sounds simple, until you realize that it's been so long since there's been any major work done that practically every school wishes it could be the top priority.
"I've heard people say we should do a south school and a north school. I'm not sure that needs to be a guiding light," said Cathy Kroymann. "I think people will put their differences aside."
It will have to be a "rational order," said board member Diane Reklis, with considerations for which school has the most immediate needs.
"There's going to be a tremendous urge to want to race," said board President Don Way. "We're going to have to remember that we have to plan the thing through all the way first."
Way describes the process with two words: excellence and equity. Excellence refers to the district's title for the project: "Building for Excellence." Equity refers to the need to treat each school as fairly as possible.
"They're going to conflict as they do in any construction project," Way said of the two goals. "We do not have the money to do the dream job." Equity questions, he said, include for example the fact that Addison School has a tile roof. "Most other elementaries will take far more money to bring their roofs up to code," he said. "How do you define equity? We desire to measure equity by the finished product." The school board will use a set of standards by which to decide what each school should look like when it's done.
In the meantime, the schools can't be distracted from their main focus. "As we go through this, it's like repairing a moving train," Way said. "We can't stop teaching and learning while we build sites."
"These schools belong to more than just the immediate school community," said board member Susie Richardson. "The board's role will be to find very good people to be involved in the planning process. We're wise enough to know we're not building experts, to know when to stay out of the way."
Allocation of the $143 million bond money will be critical, said school board candidate John Tuomy, who co-chaired the campaign in support of Measure B and headed the advisory committee that assessed the schools' physical needs. "We've got to be able to plan this so well that we don't have so much money or so much work at the end. I really do believe the community will be watching that very closely."
The school board will need to decide which needs are most critical, and which projects can be done sooner to benefit students now. "Each area (needs) to see early benefit from the commitment they've made," Tuomy said.
There will be tradeoffs.
"Paly has eight colors of beige," Tuomy said of the high school's paint. "You have to decide on a limited number of colors. We want to have each community design their own school within certain constraints," such as paint color, window size, and wiring specifications. --Elizabeth Darling
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