Board and school leaders plan Oct. 22 referendum

Building Our 2nd Century: Renovations Referendum

Board and school leaders plan Oct. 22 referendum

Referendum focuses on 21st Century Learning, Safety and Security, Athletics and Physical Education and Maintenance and Energy Conservation
The BH-BL Board of Education and school leaders, along with a 28-person committee, have been studying the district’s renovations needs since January 2013 and will be going to the public for a vote on Tuesday, Oct. 22. The referendum will focus on the district’s most important indoor and outdoor infrastructure needs over the next five years.

Members of the 28-person “Community Renovations Input & Review Committee” include both staff and non-staff parents and residents chosen to represent a cross-section of the community. They were charged by the Board of Education to study major construction, renovation and maintenance needs district-wide.

As it has done every five to six years since 1978, the Board of Education will use information and recommendations from the committee to craft a renovations referendum that will go before district voters this fall.

Instructional as well as maintenance issues to be addressed

Both the size and the scope of this fall’s renovations referendum are likely to be broader than BH-BL’s previous five-year renovations plans.

“Planning and funding major school infrastructure needs in five-year cycles has been an extremely helpful and cost-effective tool here as the district has worked to keep facilities in good condition and to protect the community’s investment in those facilities,” says BH-BL assistant superintendent and renovations committee co-chair Chris Abdoo. “But previous referenda mostly addressed energy conservation and ongoing maintenance needs. The Board of Education’s charge to our committee made it clear that they want to do more this time. They want to enhance school facilities to improve learning, and they particularly want to do more to accommodate education technology and 21st century teaching and learning.”

The renovations committee meetings have focused on examining and prioritizing potential projects with a total estimated cost of $70 million. Board of Education members are looking for assistance from the committee in identifying the most important projects based on the board’s belief that community voters would likely support a referendum of $25 to $35 million.

The potential projects have been divided into four categories or themes, as shown below, to facilitate discussion. All cost figures at this point represent only a preliminary architect’s estimate and are subject to change as the discussion and decision-making process moves forward.

  • 21st Century Learning: $47,793,000
  • Safety and Security: $3,452,000
  • Athletics and Physical Education: $8,657,000
  • Critical Infrastructure and Energy Conservation: $10,428,000

At a June 25 meeting, committee members presented a prioritized list of projects for each of the four categories.

Several of the larger projects would be designed to solve long-standing problems with existing facilities. For instance, among the high-priority safety items, in the committee’s opinion, are reconfigurations of the parking lot and traffic patterns at both the Stevens elementary school and the O’Rourke middle school to improve safety and add parking.

Other projects that are likely to create excitement in the community include construction of a new “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) wing at the high school and creation of a multi-purpose turf field at the high school. The multi-purpose turf field would be sized to accommodate soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey games as well as football and would withstand daily use, unlike the existing grass field which needs to rest and recuperate after games.

The new STEAM wing is being proposed as part of the solution of the long-standing problem of where to put the district offices so that the Hostetter Building can be sold, Abdoo says, and to do this in a way that will reap the maximum advantage to BH-BL taxpayers. The district’s architects, Mosaic Associates, envision that English rooms along the current front hallway (which are among the school’s smallest and oldest classrooms) would be converted into office space and that classrooms currently earmarked for several high school departments would be shifted.

The new, two-story STEAM wing could start from the area of the current wood shop and extend out from the auditorium lobby parallel with the existing front sidewalk. It could contain additional classrooms for art, math, robotics, technology, and engineering courses.