Future Ready - Referendum Information
PREPARING OUR FACILITIES — AND STUDENTS — FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
(From Dr. Gilmore's Out and About Blog)
On April 3, residents in the D.C. Everest Area School District will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum that would allow the district to issue up to $59.8 million in general bonds to expand and upgrade facilities in order to meet the needs of 21st century teaching and learning, improve safety, ensure equitability, extend the life of our facilities and reduce utility and operating costs.
In this blog, I address the most pressing and common questions you may have.
Just how dated are our buildings?
D.C. Everest Middle School and Mountain Bay Elementary are our most contemporary buildings — yet they are already 16 and 12 years old, respectively. The remainder of our buildings were built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. While there have been some changes — additions or partial rehabs — for the most part, the buildings remain as they were when they were first built.
While the buildings have “good bones” — they are well built and sturdy — the infrastructure is dated and imposes limits on our ability to integrate new technologies and equipment with our classrooms. For example, numerous businesses have offered to donate new equipment for our automotive, welding, woodworking and metal shops — but we have had to refuse the donations because of our outdated electrical and wiring infrastructure. Ultimately, that means students in our high-demand tech ed courses are learning on equipment that does not meet current industry standards.
Why hasn’t the district upgraded the buildings over the years?
Our goal is to ensure the majority of the district’s operating budget is spent on educating our students. Over the years, using the operating funds earmarked for facilities, our District has done its best to maintain these heavily used facilities. This has become difficult due to increasing costs and limited budgets.
Now, because of the age of our facilities, safety concerns, our growing student population and the need to integrate emerging 21st century technologies and instructional methods into our classrooms — maintenance is no longer enough. We have reached a point where facility upgrades and improvements are necessary in order to ensure our buildings provide instructional spaces that support how we teach and how our students learn — or we risk falling behind.
A comparable example is home ownership. Each year, you set aside money for maintenance — caring for your yard, repainting a few rooms, replacing worn out carpeting, fixing a broken window. Over time, the wear and tear of daily life catches up with you. You need a new roof. Your siding needs to be replaced, and your water heater, and your air conditioner. Your family has expanded and you need to build a bedroom. Those projects can’t be covered by your maintenance budget, so you take out a home equity loan.
Now consider our District. The majority of our buildings are at least 30 – 50+ years old and throughout the school year, thousands of students, families and community members use the facilities — during and after the school day. That leads to excessive wear and tear. While we have been fiscally responsible and utilized budgeted funds for maintenance and minor upgrades, after 65 years — in the case of the DCE Junior High — we need to consider upgrades and improvements that bring us into the 21st century and protect our taxpayers’ investment in our district.
These upgrades have been on our radar for a while, but the District waited until some of our previous debt had fallen off to ensure the improvements would have the slightest possible impact on taxpayers. It also was important for us to wait for the economy to rebound after the 2008 recession.
We’ve looked at the cost of delaying these projects. However, based on construction inflation averages of 5 percent/year, delaying these improvements would increase the costs by $200,000/month.
How will this affect taxpayers?
This chart below illustrates the estimated property tax increase for residents of the district. As noted below, the DCE district has the second lowest mill rate in comparison to other districts in our region. If the $59.8 million referendum is approved, the district will maintain its place with the second lowest mill rate.
Why do facilities matter?
Student/teacher outcomes. Research clearly indicates that school facilities can have a profound impact on teachers’ recruitment, retention, commitment and effort and on students’ health, safety, behavior, engagement, learning and achievement.
Lack of 21st century infrastructure. Our buildings lack the 21st century infrastructure, labs and instructional spaces we need. At the DCE Senior High for example, we have had to refuse donations — such as automotive and welding equipment — from businesses because our dated electrical system cannot support these high tech learning tools.
Safety/Security. Recent headlines make it all too clear that schools require secure and visible front entrances and building-wide security systems. Several of our schools require main entrance reconfigurations, upgraded security and fire alarm systems and reconfigured student drop-off areas.
Comfort. Poor acoustics, excessive noise, poor air quality and ventilation, ineffective lighting and insufficient control of room and building temperatures can all have a negative affect on students’ health, productivity, engagement, retention and achievement. By updating our infrastructure, we can also lower costs with added energy efficiencies.
Equitability. It is our mission to provide all students with the highest quality educational opportunities and learning environments. As it stands now, our students do not have equitable learning environments. Due to overcrowding, students in some schools spend their day in classrooms without windows — yet research indicates that exposure to natural daylight improves progression in math and reading skills. Some of our schools do not have building-wide air conditioning, yet excessive temperatures can affect student productivity. Many of our Learning Disabilities classrooms have insufficient space or privacy considerations and all of our schools need upgrades to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Code.
Where can I get more information?
We want our constituents to make an informed decision, so we encourage you to ask questions, to review the information on the district’s referendum webpage.
We invite the public to tour our facilities to see the challenges we face and how we propose to rectify them. The tours will take place as follows:
Junior High — March 1 at 6:00 p.m.
Senior High — March 7 at 6:00 p.m.
Rothschild Elementary — March 15 at 6:00 p.m.
Accessible Referendum Content
On April 3, we have the opportunity to shape the future for our students and community. This referendum aims to address a number of District needs and reinforces our commitment to providing high quality educational opportunities for over 6,000 students. A thorough process – that engaged parents, business leaders, community members and staﬀ, studied facility needs and identiﬁed options – has resulted in the plan being presented to voters in April. It reﬂects ﬁscal responsibility for taxpayers, meets the needs of students and addresses long-range facility needs.
1. Learning Spaces
To address changes in teaching needs and provide the ﬂexible learning spaces that create opportunities for personalized learning, our proposed plan includes improvements to revitalize many of our current learning environments by:
- Creating new collaborative learning spaces
- Reconﬁguring existing spaces
- Modernizing current classrooms
These ﬂexible spaces support new and innovative teaching practices that develop future-ready students.
2. Safety and Security
To ensure student safety, our facility improvement plan includes a variety of updates and entrance remodels.
Junior High School
Remodel main entrance with improved security and alert systems
- Relocate main entrances at three schools with improved security
- Redesign traﬃc ﬂow for bus and parent drop-oﬀ at three schools
- Replace plumbing at Riverside so water is safe to drink
Improve building accessibility and update ﬁre alarms to meet code requirements
3. Building Remodels and Additions
To help manage District growth and meet expanded curriculum needs, the proposed plan includes building remodels and additions at several of our buildings.
Senior High School
- Expand technical education areas
- Add eight new classrooms
- Expand storage for music and drama programs
Junior High School
Update and remodel classrooms and add a restroom in the basement
- Add classrooms and new cafetoriums (cafeteria/multi-use space) at Rothschild, Evergreen, Weston and Riverside
- New entrances at three schools
- Build new IMC at Weston and Rothschild
- Update and improve special education spaces
To protect our taxpayers' investment and ensure as much of our operating budget as possible is spent on educating our students, this facilities plan includes funding for:
- Building Systems - repair and replace doors, ﬂooring, ceilings and exterior masonry and walls
- Infrastructure - Complete overdue maintenance to prevent costly failures of rooﬁng, plumbing and HVAC systems
Implement a comprehensive, K12 facilities plan that creates ﬂexible spaces for our current and future needs; provides equitable facilities districtwide to support student achievement; maintains eﬃcient facilities.
1. Learning Spaces: Upgrade and modernize to equitably support teaching and learning environments for all students.
2. Safety & Security: Secure entrances, redesign bus and parent drop-oﬀ/ pick-up, update ﬁre alarm and PA systems.
3. Building Remodels and Additions: Resolve space concerns, expand and modernize technical education facilities.
4. Infrastruture: Update aging plumbing, HVAC, controls, rooﬁng, walls and doors.
Cost of Plan
Property Tax Impact*
$24 annually on a $100,000 home
$2 monthly on a $100,000 home
Local Area Tax (Per Student) Comparison
*D.C. Everest’s school tax is lower than most neighboring districts, and even AFTER a successful referendum it is projected to remain below the local average.