Date:           May 20, 2009

To:                 Chair Eglinton and Members of the School Committee

Cc:                 Jeanne Whynot-Vickers

From:          Jaimey Caron, Chair, Facilities Task Force

RE:                 Submission of the report of the Facilities task force to the school committee

 

Introduction

The Comprehensive Facilities Use and Maintenance Task Force (FTF) is pleased to submit the attached report of our findings regarding the educational facilities needs of the Portland Public School (PPS).  The report is a result if a nearly year long process.

The FTF was established by the Portland School Committee in June, 2008.  In developing the report, the FTF held 18 meetings and visited all of the buildings under the control of the district with the exception of the island schools.  The FTF was assisted in this effort by the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) and members of the PPS Central Office Team.

At our final public hearing on May 11, 2009 the FTF voted [LATER] to recommend adoption of the report.  The purpose of this memo is to request the School Committee to adopt the report as part of its overall educational plan and to communicate with the School Committee our opinion of the necessary next steps in implementing elements of the plan.

Recommendations for Next Steps in Facilities Planning

During our deliberations, the FTF determined that the necessary next steps in pursuing opportunities identified in the report falls into two categories.  The first category involves certain planning activities required to guide decision making in the area of facilities such that they support the educational goals of the district and to provide the resources necessary to implement the decisions.  They include:

Comprehensive Educational Planning – The FTF recognized early that comprehensive educational planning is an essential component of long range facilities planning.  Educational needs determine the kind of physical environment best suited to support learning.  As part of our enrollment evaluation, we recognized the shifting demographic profile of our students and the corresponding shift in educational programming needs. Coupled with the evolution of state and federal mandates over the last three decades, the schools of today look markedly different than the schools many of us remember from our own experience.  The pace of change (demographic, legislative, technological, etc.) presents a significant challenge to the district in adapting structures built decades ago to current, let alone future, needs.  Educational planning must inform the required shift in facilities needs.  To that end, we are aware of the School Committee’s commitment to developing a Comprehensive Educational Plan for the district and recommend that this effort be commenced within the next academic year to fully realize the opportunities identified in the report.

Budgeting – The FTF reviewed the annual budget associated with building maintenance and capital improvements as well as funds available to support professional architectural and engineering consulting services.  We also reviewed the current list of projects waiting to be included in the City’s annual Capital Improvement Program (CIP) funding which currently total in excess of $45 million.  Industry best practices in building maintenance suggest that capital and long-term maintenance funding should be approximately 2% of the replacement costs of the buildings annually.  This equates to approximately $5 million in Portland’s case.   We noted that PPS is currently under-funded in each of these critical areas and recommend that the district move to increase funding in this area consistent with industry best practices.  The FTF is also aware of the School Committee’s interest in establishing multi-year budgeting.  Basing budget decisions over an extended time-line will better address sustainable funding streams for adapting and maintaining our structures and the FTF recommends that the School Committee move forward with this initiative during the next academic year.

Coordination with the City of Portland – The City of Portland recently contracted with a company to perform an energy audit of all municipal buildings, including the buildings under the supervision of the school department.  The results of this study, as well as coordination in the financing of capital projects, require close coordination with, and support from, the City Council.

The second area involves specific facilities planning activities required to capitalize on opportunities identified within the report.  They include:

Stand Alone Programs and Services: The FTF identified several stand alone program or services that are located in buildings that do not efficiently meet the district’s needs from both an operational and economical viewpoint.  They include the central kitchen operation, Adult Education, the Multi-Lingual Center and the day treatment program.  The FTF recommends that money included in the current FY10 budget under the School Committee cost center for consulting services be used to address these opportunities as follows:

Central Kitchen – Located in the former Reed School, the equipment used to prepare meals for most of our students is reaching the end of its useful life and is in need of modernization.  Annually, money is spent to maintain equipment at less than optimal conditions.  The majority of the building is unoccupied and has no other educational potential.  The report outlines four options for further consideration in addressing the Central Kitchen facility needs.

Adult Education – The district’s Adult Education programming is located in several buildings including West and Baxter.  In anticipation of construction of the new Ocean Ave School, the Adult Education programming at Baxter will be relocated later this year to Riverton.  While this temporary solution will meet the short term needs of the district, it presents challenges to the district when programming for adults and elementary age school students are housed in the same facility.  Because Riverton also serves as a community center and can be configured to provide separation and security between the groups, the district can manage this problem over the short term.   A long-term solution for housing this program is a priority given the needs of the community and the opportunity to generate offsetting revenues to address the program’s space needs.

Day Treatment – Located at West, the day treatment program is highly regarded for the work it does but is limited in its ability to attract out of district students because of the condition of the building.  Located on a former landfill, the building has undergone a number of projects to mitigate the negative effects of the site upon which it is located.  Because of the district’s size and demographics, PPS is able to provide these services within the district thereby saving out of district placement costs in private institutions.  If needed improvements are made, this facility could well attract out of district clients.  The added revenue generated by the increased enrollment are a source of funding for the needed improvements as well as benefiting the program and its participants.  As with the Adult Education program, a long-term solution for housing this program is a priority given the needs of the community and the opportunity to generate offsetting revenues to address the program’s space needs.

The FTF recommends that the district move immediately into the next phase of evaluating the options identified in the report to address the needs of these stand alone programs.  Specifically, the FTF recommends the district retain the services of a professional consultant to determine the costs of the various options outlined in the report.  The consultants would determine the construction costs for various options and the impact on operating costs.  The consultant would also address the potential for funding streams to offset debt service associated with relocating the programs including the resale value of the existing buildings and real estate in the event the current facility is vacated.  The results of this analysis would prepare the district to include funding in the FY11 budget to implement any required changes.

Equity in Elementary Programming – PPS anticipates breaking ground later this year on the construction of a new elementary school on Ocean Ave.  When it opens in 2011, the district will have three elementary schools that meet the current best practices for elementary education space planning (East End, Riverton and Ocean Ave).  While that represents a positive step forward for our elementary schools, the reality is that 5 schools do not meet current education requirements.  Addressing the lack of equity in the elementary buildings should be a priority for the district.  The FTF recommends that the district move to address this problem in two phases.

Phase 1 - The FTF recommends the district move forward to address inequities for students at two additional elementary schools – Lyseth and Presumpscot - in the next 6 to 12 months.  Both of these facilities use modular classrooms to meet programming needs and lack critical support space found in the other schools.  The timing of improvements or changes to these facilities would coincide with the opening of the new Ocean Ave School.

Phase 2 – Upon completion of Phase 1, the FTF recommends the district move immediately into addressing the inequities found in the remaining elementary schools.  The FTF recognize two specific issues will determine how the district moves to complete the modernization of its elementary facilities:

1.        Understanding the source of available funding, particularly at the state level, will determine the extent to which improvements can be made.  When the state makes funds available for capital projects, the district routinely submits its facilities for consideration.   During the last two rounds of state funding, Portland schools ranked relatively high on the list of schools from around the state with critical capital needs.  As a result, state support of capital projects at the East End and Ocean Ave Elementary schools freed up local resources to address problems at the remaining building.    The FTF anticipates that once the state announces the next round of capital projects, schools within the district will again rank relatively high on the list.  But we recognize that state funding is uncertain at best and it would not be in the best interest of our community to allow deficiencies in our buildings to impede the educational opportunities for another generation of students. The FTF recommends that during this phase, the district work with the state to determine the availability of state funding but be prepared to move on its own to complete the long overdue modernization of our elementary schools. In addition, funds associated with the disposition of the former Nathan Clifford Elementary School, as well as other structures that no long serve the district, should be used to offset capital costs at the remaining elementary schools.

2.        The enrollment and demographic information contained in the report coupled with the opening of the new Ocean Avenue School provide an opportunity to explore redistricting in an effort to more efficiently match students to schools.  While never an easy undertaking, redistricting is an important tool in managing the space needs of the district and is overdue in the district.

Oversight of facilities issues

Having completed the most recent of many facilities plans over the years, the Task Force recognizes that missing from the process of long range facilities planning is an ongoing oversight structure within city government to manage the district’s physical assets.

The FTF recommends that the School Committee and the City Council explore ways to more collaboratively oversee the maintenance and capital improvements of the City’s built environment.   The development and funding of capital projects, the maintenance of our buildings (including maintenance and custodial support staff) and the implementation and periodic update of the City’s facilities plans are a shared responsibility.  The FTF is aware of the commitments made by each body in the Sustainable Education Plan and encourage the bodies to fast-track resolution to the many areas related to facilities management contained in the plan.

To address specific near term opportunities identified in the report, the FTF recommends the creation of steering committees comprised of School Committee and interested members of the community, with the support of staff and professional consultants, as needed in order to fully explore and adequately address the unique requirements of the programs or services under evaluation.

Conclusions

The FTF would like to thank Interim Superintendent Jeanne Whynot Vickers, Facilities Director Doug Sherwood, Business Manager Herb Hopkins and Assistant City Manager Anita LaChance for the many hours of hard work in support of our effort.  We also recognize the work of Don Kennedy and his staff at NESDEC for the thorough and professional manner in which the report was compiled.  Lastly, we would like to thank the School Committee for the foresight and guidance provided throughout this process.  With our work complete, we look forward to assisting the School Committee as it works to adopt the report.