District Master Capital Plan highlights school facility needs
CASTLE ROCK— The Douglas County population and the capital needs of the school district are expanding. This was the message that the Long Range Planning Committee delivered to the Douglas County School District (DCSD) Board of Education in June as it presented the 2016-2017 five-year Master Capital Plan.
A volunteer advisory committee made up of citizens and DCSD Operations staff, the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is charged by the Board of Education to study school district existing needs for facilities, equipment and new schools for growth. Annually, the committee provides revisions to the District’s five-year Master Capital Plan and presents it to the Board.
In an effort to provide more transparency and clarity on the level of need for items detailed in the Master Capital Plan, the document’s format and design were revamped last year. This new format, used again for this year’s Master Capital Plan, has made the document more readable and understandable for the general public.
Master Capital Tier System
Four tiers were established to help differentiate levels of needs. Within each tier are three levels of acuity as determined by a number of factors, including actual condition, anticipated lifespan, etc. Below are examples of the type of work that would fall into each tier.
Needs are categorized into four tiers for each of the four categories of focus (safety and security, transportation, information technology (IT) and facilities):
Tier one needs represent items that could potentially close an entire building or segment of the student population. Examples of this would be a replacement of a boiler, transformer or roof.
Tier two needs represent at-risk items that, should there be a failure could potentially impact a program or a portion of a building. An example of this would be an artificial turf field at a high school.
Tier three needs include issues that may affect the educational environment, but probably would not stop a program from running.
Tier four needs include building and site components that may be considered optional in nature. An example of this would be the landscaping around a school.
Adjustments for the 2016-17 Master Capital Plan
New for this year, Transportation department needs have been aligned with the tiering system used by facilities and other areas of focus.
“What this means is that a tier one high priority transportation issue would have the same impact as a tier one high priority facilites issue,” said Immediate Past LRPC Chair, Todd Warnke. “That gives us the ability to have greater communications with [the Board of Education] and the community.”
Planning and Construction staff members have also assigned estimated dollar amounts to projects by collecting competitive bids and comparing those bids to projects of neighboring school districts.
Planning and Construction staff engaged students in the creation of the plan
It was important to the LRPC that there be student voice in the Plan.
Students in David Sapienza’s Rock Canyon High School social studies class had a chance to look at the matrix of items that impacted the Rock Canyon feeder and evaluate the things they saw as needing to be addressed.
“It was an outstanding opportunity for me as a teacher and for my students to see how the process actually goes for making capital improvements,” said Sapienza.
Douglas County’s population continues to grow
Since 2004, DCSD has grown from 58 school buildings to 76. Excluding charters, the number of school buildings has grown from 53 to 67.
“The constant we’ve seen over these last several years has been growth. People think we may have not hit those same numbers of growth that we’ve had in the past, but in fact we have,” said Warnke.
“Since 2006, the last time a bond passed in the Douglas County School District, we’ve grown just short of 39 percent, or just short of 19,000 students-- a bigger number than most of us think of,” he said.
The 2006 bond was fully expended as of 2013. Since then, needs have been funded by Certificates of Participation, a type of financing used by government entities, as well as general funds and facility rental revenue.
3,000 needs outlined in the 2016-17 Master Capital Plan
There are 3,000 individual items outlined in the 2016-17 Master Capital Plan, with total estimated costs over five years ranging from $304 million to $366 million. Below is a summary of high-level needs in each focus area.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Tier two needs include upgraded security system cameras and an expansion of radios. Overall capital improvements total approximately $12.5 million. Any items that would fall under Tier one are handled immediately.
“There are no tier one items for safety and security. If there were, we would take care of those,” Warnke said. “We would make sure there is no safety exposure to any of our students.”
Tier one transportation needs include Special Education busses.
“We’ve had an increase in special education needs in the district,” Warnke said.
Busses used for students in Special Education must be specifically designed to accommodate this population with particular specifications. Therefore, general student busses are not permitted for use with students in Special Education. General students can, however, ride on Special Education busses.
The total cost for transportation needs over five years is approximately $8 million.
Tier one needs for IT include hardware and equipment that have a limited lifespan. The overall cost for IT needs over five years is approximately $48 million.
“Part of the nature of IT, with needs that change quickly, is that there are often high tier one needs issues. Servers wear out, they need to be replaced on a normal cycle. If they go down, everything goes down,” Warnke said.
Each school has two pages dedicated to it in the Master Capital Plan, including both a broad overview of needs and a detail of needs categorized by tier and priority. Often, School Advisory Committee members will refer to their school’s respective two pages when assessing their school needs.
Planning and Construction staff conduct a physical inspection of schools on a rotation of every 3-5 years. As a result of these inspections, some needs may shift from a lower priority to a higher priority.
The total cost of facility needs over the next five years is $121 million to $174 million. In the coming year, over $700,000 must be spent on changes to door hardware in schools in order to comply with state mandated changes by January 1, 2018.
“People will sometimes look at these items and ask, ‘well why does it cost so much?’” Warnke explained. “We build schools to a higher level [of quality] than you do at home. We can’t go down to Home Depot and buy a door handle and put it on a boys bathroom in an elementary school. It will get more use in six months than yours will at home in its entire life. Because of that, there is a different standard that we need to build to in order to maintain that.”