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December 10, 2010 Published in 2010 In Review, Schools

Sherman Proposes $370 Million For ACPS Capital Improvement Program For Next Ten Years

By Carla Branch

Last night Alexandria City Public School Superintendent Morton Sherman submitted a ten-year capital improvement program budget of $370 million to the Alexandria School Board.

ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman. (Photo: James Cullum)

“This CIP budget is for ten years as opposed to five, at the request of the City,” Sherman said. “Also, we have prepared two CIP budgets: a needs-based CIP budget of $381,731,653, which reflects the investment we believe is needed to pay for our capacity and maintenance needs over the next ten years, and a resource-constrained budget of $370,028,783, which reflects the economic realities and available City funding.”

Deputy Superintendent Margaret Byess explained how the CIP budget was prepared. “This budget request contains three primary drivers: investment in additional facility capacity to accommodate anticipated enrollment growth; regular maintenance on school buildings; and a new category, shared program priorities,” she said. “These three areas account for 83% of the ACPS resource-constrained CIP request.”

Since FY2007, student enrollment has increased by 1700 students, “which is the equivalent of four elementary schools or three middle schools,” Sherman said.

This means that more classrooms are needed. “Next year, we have 33 available classrooms systemwide,” Byess said. “Over the next five years, if enrollment continues to increase at the projected rate, we will need an additional 93 classrooms, resulting in a deficit of 60 classrooms.”

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Most of this increased enrollment is occurring at the elementary level. “However, as these students go through the system, that means a need for additional space at the secondary level,” Byess said.

Sherman is proposing new K-8 buildings at Patrick Henry, Cora Kelly and Jefferson-Houston. “We plan to keep the current school open on the Patrick Henry site and build an additional school there,” Sherman said. “We would consider having one building as a PreK-5 school and the other a 6-8 school, connected by the recreation center, which could provide support services.

“We would close the current Cora Kelly facility and replace it with a new school, and we are planning a new facility at Jefferson-Houston to accommodate the K-8 program. Also, we need to look at where we might build an additional K-8 school,” Sherman said.

Funding for Jefferson-Houston would be needed in FY2012 if the new school is to open as planned in the fall of 2014. The construction project, complete with furnishings and equipment, will cost $39 million.

“We have taken the public/private partnership for the Jefferson-Houston site off the table, so this funding would come from the City as part of our CIP proposal,” Sherman said.

The average age of ACPS facilities is 54 years. “It costs significantly more to maintain an old building than it does to maintain a new one,” Byess said. “However, we cannot continue to defer things like painting walls and re-finishing floors, or we begin to have a negative impact on the learning environments of our students. We aren’t going to put a lot of money into Cora Kelly because we plan to close the school, but there are some basic things we must do.”

As to the new category, Shared Program Priorities: “These are projects that we believe will benefit the entire community,” Byess said.

Summary of Recommendations

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The capacity proposals total $199.3 million over the 10-year period and include:

• An additional 20 classrooms constructed on existing school sites in FY 2012, for a projected cost of $7.9 million, including furnishings and equipment.

• A new school on the Jefferson-Houston School site for kindergarten through 8th grade. The projected cost is $39.3 million (including furnishings and equipment), with a projected opening date of fall 2014.

• A second new school building on the Patrick Henry site to accommodate the projected continued enrollment growth. Based on the most recent enrollment and capacity analysis, this building will be required in addition to the existing Patrick Henry Elementary School building. There will be a kindergarten through 8th-grade complex in two buildings on the site. The City’s Patrick Henry Recreation Center will continue to be co-located with the school buildings, and additional space for the recreation center plus a larger gym will be included in the plan. The anticipated cost is $35.3 million, with opening planned for fall 2015.

• A 56-room addition on the T.C. Williams High School, Minnie Howard campus site (or equivalent addition at another location) to accommodate the projected growth in the secondary student population. The total estimated cost is $26 million, with a planned opening date of fall 2016.

• A third new elementary school for kindergarten through 8th grade built on the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology site. The projected cost for this building is $43.4 million, with a planned opening date of fall 2018.

• A fourth new elementary school for kindergarten through 8th grade built on a site to be determined. The projected cost of this school is $46 million, with a planned opening of fall 2020.

• In conjunction with the above, the modified open enrollment policies currently in effect for grades K-5 would be continued to maximize the use of limited classroom space. The impact of the modified open enrollment policy is discussed in more detail in the enrollment section that follows.

• Attachment A includes the capacity analysis for each school level for each year in the CIP request. Based on this analysis, the above sequence of building is required to meet anticipated capacity requirements.

The facility maintenance projects total $75.1 million and include:

• $43.6 million for elementary schools, including the $4.4 million cost of keeping the existing Patrick Henry building open. This amount was not included in last year’s CIP, as it had been intended to close the old building.

• $20 million for middle schools.

• $8.9 million for secondary schools.

• $2.6 million for other ACPS facilities, including the boat house and transportation facilities.

• These projects include repair and replacement of HVAC systems, roof replacement, floor tile replacement, maintenance to playgrounds, maintenance of windows and building exteriors, and other required maintenance to keep ACPS schools in good operating condition. Five ACPS schools will exceed 75 years of age over the next 10 years.

Shared Program Priorities total $33.9 million and incorporate projects that are outside the traditional K-12 program priorities but are of significant importance to the City of Alexandria overall. These projects include:

• Additional classroom space for preschool programs, at a projected cost of $18.6 million over the 10-year period.

Major Sources of Change

The resource-constrained CIP represents an increase of $200.7 million compared with the comparable budget period of the FY 2011-2020 CIP as approved by the School Board and City Council. Table 2 shows funding requests for the constrained resources scenario by school site for FY 2012 to FY 2021.

The increase is accounted for by two primary areas: capacity projects and facilities maintenance.

Capacity Projects

Capacity projects are $155.3 million higher in this CIP than in the FY 2011-16 CIP. This is due to the inclusion of four new capacity projects (20 more modular classrooms, a new building on the Jefferson-Houston site, a 56-room addition for secondary capacity, and a fourth new elementary school at a site to be determined).

In addition, the cost for elementary schools is higher than budgeted last year. The anticipated square footage has been increased from 100,000 to 120,000 for each school. The cost of furniture, fixtures, and equipment has been added, and a contingency fund of 5% has been added. The budgeted cost has also been increased from $200 to $260 per square foot. This higher cost includes probable storm-water management costs at each site. The higher per-square-foot cost was determined based on a review of the per-square-foot costs of comparable projects in Northern Virginia school divisions. It is still below the per-square-foot costs of recent City building projects.

Facility Maintenance Projects

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Cost increases of $48.2 million in facility maintenance are included in this CIP. A substantial portion of this ($39 million) is due to the longer timeline of the CIP budget submission. Last year’s CIP submission included only six years of data; this year’s submission includes an additional four years.

Last year’s CIP did not include any maintenance costs for Patrick Henry, as the old building was projected to be closed after the new building was constructed. Because anticipated capacity needs will require ACPS to keep the old building open, $4.4 million for facility maintenance has been added back into the CIP request.

The remaining $12.3 million in increased facility maintenance costs, compared with last year’s final CIP budget, is due to a reconsideration of what can feasibly be deferred without impacting the instructional environment. For example, the $1.2 million ceiling tile replacement project at John Adams is scheduled for 2012, based on the external facilities needs assessment. In the prior year’s CIP budget, it was deferred beyond 2016 in order to balance. This is not considered feasible.

In addition to specific projects included in the resource-constrained CIP that were deferred as part of the FY 2011-16 Final CIP last year, the deferral cycle for painting and replacement of floor tiles has been reconsidered due to instructional environment considerations.

The deferral of elevator projects also has been reconsidered. A more detailed analysis of differences between last year’s CIP and the current proposal will be provided as part of the CIP budget book.

The School Board will hold a work session on Sherman’s proposed CIP budget on Dec. 15 and a public hearing on it on Jan. 6. Sherman will present his proposed operating budget to the Board on Jan. 13, and the School Board will adopt its final FY  2012 operating budget and FY 2012-2021 CIP budget on Feb, 24, 2011.