"Dear Dr. Pierce,
Please consider the following with regard to your recent response to my letters questioning the LWSD policy of replacing schools instead of modernizing them. You provided much detail confirming that our buildings are built larger than the state allowable area for the number of students housed. As a result, any new schools we build will require the use of 100% local funds with no state support.
However, you don’t mention that the state will still provide almost 25% of the cost to modernize any or all of our schools. You also didn’t explain why the major share of the proposed $755,000,000 bond issue next year is earmarked to replace 6 more of our schools with 100% local funds instead of modernizing (remodeling) them with 25% state support for hundreds of millions of dollars less. Read More >>
Your letter clearly describes how LWSD standards exceed state standards. While many districts closely conform to those standards for size and cost, our district apparently requires much more space for similar programs and spends considerably more money for construction. You confirmed that the construction cost of replacing LWHS was $356 per SF. That’s not just more than the state allowance for new construction cost, it’s twice the cost.
Given the quality of construction and condition of any of our buildings that were replaced, including LWHS, complete remodeling should not have cost much more than around 50% of the cost of replacement. In their program for modernization, the state allows remodeling costs of up to twice that, 100% of the cost of replacement. According to state website data, we spent $65 million more local money to rebuild rather than to remodel LWHS at the state’s generous level of support for modernization.
As I stated, that 65 million could have built 6 new elementary or 3 junior high schools within state standards. Even using LWSD standards, the district could have instead built 2 new elementary schools or most of a new junior high using that 65 million to help accommodate growth.
You mention that the district conducts a “new in lieu” study comparing the cost of remodeling versus the cost of a new school for all the rebuilt schools. Also that the district has determined Kamaikin Jr Hi would require $1.25 million for temporary housing, which is not normally required during the short period of modernization in most other districts statewide. It also is not allowed for state funding assistance under their regulations for modernization. I assume those estimates are the same as those included in the State Study and Surveys provided by the district in its applications for state assistance to build new schools in lieu of modernizing them.
A review of several of those estimates for remodeling shows that in addition to the allowance for temporary housing, several more millions of dollars for other non-remodeling items were also included in those estimates. Items such as additions, site development, site utilities, off site work, demolition of the existing structure and so on. The estimate for remodeling Rush ES included a cost of $1.6 million for temporary housing, $6.7 million for additions, and $2.2 million for site redevelopment. Of course the estimates all showed that the cost of remodeling exceeded the cost of replacement.
You also state that value engineering is conducted on each project. This study is required by state regulations “at the appropriate time in the design process” on all large projects receiving state funds. It’s intended to provide an independent expert analysis of the work of the design team to “identify unnecessary high costs or functions”. Your studies were done long after the conceptual design phase where the most expensive decision of all was made, new versus remodel. The opportunity for independent expert opinions on the design team’s assumptions and conclusions regarding replacement rather than modernization was long gone by then.
You say a “modernization only” approach would not provide “the level of equity of school facilities that the current program provides”. However, you don’t explain the equity of having almost half of our kids and teachers struggling in aging and out of date buildings, while the rest are in new buildings which will become obsolete again as programs change long before their turn for replacement under the district’s current 30-40 year replacement policy.
You provide no information showing that the educational process works better in a new building than a properly modernized one. I’m sure that you could provide plenty of data to show that the process does work better in modernized comfortable facilities that accommodate program needs rather than in buildings that are uncomfortable and don’t accommodate those needs.
The $460 million is gone. 16 years have passed. Over half our buildings have been destroyed and replaced instead of being modernized as promised. Almost half our kids and teachers are still struggling with aging and unmodernized facilities. Now the district is asking for another 3/4 billion dollars to continue their same 30-40 year cycle school replacement policy for a few more schools. Several more schools will wait years more to be modernized. Our kids, teachers and your constituents deserve better consideration.
Paul P. Hall, Architect, AIA Emeritus