Last night we wrapped up our discussion about grade configurations for our Facilities Master Plan. The bottom line is that the board agreed to proceed with the plan to include the 4/5 schools on both the Central and Tierra Linda campuses and to plan for CLC moving to a new location. Not knowing how long it would take to find a suitable site, it was well understood that we would leave CLC where it is in the meantime and thus could have an interim state where the new school, TL, and CLC remain on that campus until CLC is moved. Although the traffic was the number one concern in this scenario (regardless of how temporary or permanent it is), there would be significant mitigation efforts done as part of the construction, and we have known for sometime that we have to look at other solutions for TL (such as transportation, entrance from Alameda, etc.) even if we did nothing. Also, this approach gives us future option value to move CLC at any point in time — to either a new location or one we own. In any case, it was clear that from a financial standpoint, the goal was to ensure that the cost of moving CLC would effectively be funded by other sources, which could be state money allocated specifically for charter schools, a capital campaign by CLC itself, or funding from partners. Therefore, the total cost to the district wouldn’t be any greater than just leaving CLC (and renovating it) in its current location.
The first part of last night’s discussion included information brought back by Dr. Baker and his team at the request of some of the board members from previous meetings, including discussion of the operating cost differences among the plans proposed and some of the pros and cons related to implementing our new 4/5 configuration in different scenarios. We also reviewed our original criteria for making this decision and discussed scenarios that we had (some time ago) taken off the table. Lastly, we saw a review of some of the design elements — both the physical and the curricular — of our new 4/5 21st Century Learning environments as envisioned. But as Dr. Baker reminded us, it will take a good 12-18 months of work to build the specific curriculum, which can only start once we’ve decided on our overall configuration plan and phasing for actual implementation at each site.
Without recounting the entire discussion, it was clear that the consensus of the board was the the 4/5 configuration on the middle school was the best solution from an educational perspective, and that trumped all other concerns. I earlier wrote why I think that is so — particularly the issues of equity, scale, leveraging existing assets on the MS campuses, and a smoother transition for kids. One of the teachers that spoke described this outcome as a “dream come true” for kids and for the district.
Although this was a long process — having been discussing facilities planning and grade configuration for almost two years now — and a bit difficult in the last month or so as more members of the community have weighed in and expressed angst with the plan — it is hard not to be excited at the innovative journey we are about to take. And you can also see that excitement in the SCSD team that spoke about our approach to 21st Century Learning. The possibilities to make real strides in implementing our strategic plan and remaking education in the modern era can happen now because of the intersection of our pedagogical vision and our facility needs.
But now the hard work actually begins. To be clear, the board didn’t approve any specific project or budget — it agreed upon the major configurations of our Facilities Master Plan. The next steps include the following:
- Complete the Facilities Master Plan (perhaps sometime in the late winter)
- The board review a specific set of plans — and budget — consistent with that plan
- Start the process (”get in line”) to be eligible for state matching funds for construction
- Develop a full “phasing” plan for construction projects
- Identify potential sites for CLC and determine feasibility and funding
It’s still unclear when actual construction will begin. Although the original plan had some work — likely at the Central site — begin as early as Summer 2013 and finish some work for the 2014-2015 school year, it’s possible that is too aggressive and work would start later in the year or the following summer. This is all to be determined. The Board would of course have to approve all final construction plans, phasing, and of course budget. We were also reminded that in all scenarios, our desires exceed the money raised by Measure H, and that the district would continue to find other sources of funding (including potential state grants). We will have to carefully consider the phasing of projects so that we can prudently build within our means but at the same time plan for a longer time frame. Note that the Facilities Master Plan would look beyond Measure H in terms of time and scope.
I would like to commend my colleagues for putting in the massive amount of time and effort to study the issue from all angles, speaking with so many community members to get input, and for finally making a difficult decision that they believed was in the best long-term interest of our students and our community.