District 15's Facilities Plan Committee is set to explore how our buildings can best facilitate 21st century learning.
Last winter, I convened the District 15 Facilities Plan Committee to recommend how the District should tackle the extensive list of nuts-and-bolts issues identified in the new 10-year life safety study. In June, the Board of Education adopted the Committee's recommended strategy to accomplish the life safety report's requirements, and now we are in the midst of taking the first step in that recommendation by completing a plan to schedule and fund the District's most urgent facilities needs.
Our latest estimates indicate those high priority projects, which would be completed during the 2016 and 2017 summer breaks, will cost about $29.6 million. The Board could decide as early as its next meeting on February 10 whether to fund those projects by issuing life safety bonds, using its fund balances, or a combination of both.
As the Board deliberates on this matter, the Facilities Plan Committee v2.0 is set to shift gears and begin exploring how the District's buildings can best facilitate 21st century learning. This work is, in fact, part of the recommendation the Committee delivered to the Board this past summer. Now that plans to address our most pressing short-term facilities concerns are nearing completion, the Committee will begin to consider some of the following long-term questions:
- How do the physical setups of our schools and classrooms limit and/or enable teaching and learning? Do they have the space they will need to accommodate the large-group, small-group, and individual instruction needs of their students and staffs, as well as the wrap-around services required within their respective communities?
- What curricular changes might cause us to reimagine the way our schools look? What would need to change to allow the District to implement full-day kindergarten, expand our preschool program, and create academic academies and grade-level centers?
- What impact will our enrollment projections have on our long-term facilities plans? How many students will we serve? Where will they live? How far will they have to travel to school?
- Should our boundaries be adjusted so that—as much as possible—students attend their neighborhood schools, and elementary schools feed into the same junior highs and high schools?
- How can the District ensure the dollars it invests in its buildings provide the best value for taxpayers? From an operations and maintenance standpoint, are any facilities aging past their point of usefulness? Should we consider closing any older, smaller buildings because they are simply no longer worthy of further investment?
- Finally, do the answers to any of these questions indicate the District should build new or larger schools that are closer to where our students live and better equipped to deliver the instructional programs they need?
The Facilities Plan Committee's answers to these questions will help guide the District as it moves forward to provide future generations with—in terms of bricks and mortar—schools that are better situated to serve their communities and meet the demands of modern education. Look for the Committee's recommendations to the Board later this spring, and let us know your thoughts on these issues.
And—as always—thank you for your support of Community Consolidated School District 15 and its mission to produce lifelong learners in a connected learning community.
Scott B. Thompson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools