Success in schools. Many think it depends strictly upon the quality of the teachers and curriculum. But did you know that statistics report that a student’s potential increases by as much as seven percent when their environment is properly ventilated, has adequate lighting and good acoustics?
While the students in Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD) have shown improvement in test scores in recent years, the facilities in which they are learning have continued to deteriorate at a pace where a catastrophic occurrence could leave LPOSD not only in a financial bind but also without a place to house students.
“It’s not a matter of if it (a catastrophic occurrence) will happen, it’s a matter of when it will happen,” said Kendon Perry, a local resident and financial advisor who was one of several appointed to the Facilities Planning Committee last fall to research the needs and status of all the schools in the district.
The committee, which is comprised of a cross section of several members of the community, worked in conjunction with consultant Dave Teater to research and develop a six-year plan for the improvement of LPOSD’s facilities.
After extensive investigation, their findings are troubling at best.
“There are likely a lot of ticking time bombs,” said Perry regarding the issues that could happen at any time.
Teater has a background in teaching and his process is data driven; he helped bring a process to the entire evaluation process. The committee also worked with two architectural firms, ALSC Architects out of Spokane and Architects West, Inc. out of Coeur d’Alene.
“I was shocked at the condition of the buildings,” said Scott Schriber, owner of Selle Valley Construction and a member of the Facilities Planning Committee. When evaluating some of the facilities, they learned that to completely gut a building would cost 80 percent of what it would to rebuild. When the cost is that great, the committee decided it makes more sense to rebuild to avoid any hidden surprises.
While others, such as LPOSD Facilities Director Matt Diel, say they are not surprised by the results, it is definitely a long laundry list of things that must be done.
According to LPOSD Board Chair Steve Youngdahl and Superintendent Shawn Woodward, the Idaho constitution requires that new construction or modernization of public school buildings must be paid through property taxes. Thus, their goal is to educate the community about the needs and of an upcoming Plant Facilities Levy that will go to vote on August 30. The amount of the levy may appear shocking to some, $55.1 million, but the projects are ones that will benefit not just one or two facilities but a majority of LPOSD.
The ultimate decision of what would be tackled in the six-year plan and what would be brought to the voters in August was up to the LPOSD Board of Trustees. When they learned the facts presented to them by the committee, they voted to accept all of the recommendations and to move forward with the $55.1 million Plant Facilities Levy.
And for those who think there have been several plant facility levies in our past, you may be surprised to learn that the last ones were in 1953, 1987 and 2008.
While much of what needs to be done is to rebuild or repair the structures, it is also necessary to update the schools.
“Much of the learning that is taking place in our schools is driven by technology, all the way down to the elementary level,” said Perry of the need to update LPOSD’s facilities.
As a financial advisor, Perry has analyzed the costs and the current financial status of LPOSD and is confident that those in charge have done a superb job managing the finances.
“Lisa (Hals, Chief Financial Officer for LPOSD) has done a great job of building the reserve. Unfortunately, we may have to dip into it,” said Perry.
So what are the projects that are being proposed with the levy?
One will be to rebuild Sandpoint Middle School, which was originally built in 1954 and had classrooms added in 1965 and 1972. Currently, the condition of the school is listed as “unsatisfactory.” Not only will there be an entire rebuild, there will also be an increased capacity to 675 students and an auxiliary gym will be added. The portable classrooms that now sit on the site will be removed.
Northside Elementary, built in 1953, would also be completely rebuilt if the levy passes. Planned for a 2017 completion date, all portable classrooms would be removed and student capacity would increase to 180.
Also in the committee’s proposal was the rebuild of much of Washington Elementary. It was originally built in 1958 and additional classrooms were added in 1973 and 1980. There was an annex added in 1994 and that will remain.
Clark Fork Junior and Senior High School would also benefit from the levy. With a project-based curriculum, the levy would go to construct a new career technical shop. According to the committee, the current shop utilized by the students does not meet the modern project-based learning model.
For Sandpoint High School, the addition of new classrooms would be a welcomed relief for many. The plan is to remove all of the portable classrooms as well as the art room and all would be housed in the new classrooms at the school.
The proposal also outlines the need for new track and athletic fields on the campus of Sandpoint High School and Sandpoint Middle School.
Lastly, in an effort to provide preventative maintenance and improved energy efficiency and safety upgrades throughout the district, the committee proposed some of the levy proceeds be placed into a special project fund.
With deteriorating infrastructure and buildings that are substandard or out of compliance, the committee is urging members of the community to educate themselves on what the needs are and how much it will cost them.
“If someone’s property is assessed at $200,000 and holds the homeowner’s exemption, their total projected (school) tax would be approximately $384 for 2017; an increase of $200 a year or just under $17 a month,” said Perry.
To learn more about the Plant Facilities Levy, log onto www.lposd.org.