Board takes deep dive into projects' scope

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The Board of Education spent nearly 3 hours at its regular meeting on Monday, June 25 reviewing the final scope of any projects included in a potential referendum in November, along with the capital and operational costs and the wording of the ballot resolutions.
Eppstein Uhen Architect's Chris Michaud reviewed the projects, while Matt Premo of J.H. Findorff & Son covered the costs. Premo said the capital building projects are at $138.99 million. The Board had requested that those projects come in under $140 million.

Jackie Michaels and Andy Lyons of EUA and Brian Hornung of Findorff were also in attendance.  

Michaud said a new cafeteria at Park would be located on the north side of the school, while a couple of classrooms and bathrooms near the addition would be renovated. Improvements to playground and an outdoor learning space are also planned. This plan would also allow new classrooms to be added at Park once enrollment increases in coming years as projected. He noted the cafeteria is being built to accommodate additional students should an addition occur in the future.

Michaud said the current CSCS building would turn into turn into an early childhood and 4K site with capacity for 44 students and 12 administrators. He said much of the space will stay the same, although extra storage space will be added, some classrooms will be combined and a bathroom will need updating to accommodate students with special needs. An outdoor play area with small, age-appropriate play structure will also be part of the project, he said.

Superintendent George Mavroulis noted there is currently an early childhood classroom at Northside and a 4K classroom at Elm Lawn so this plan would free up space at those schools. This project wouldn't begin until CSCS is ready to move into the rebuilt and expanded high school.

Michaud noted the new elementary school adjacent to Pope Farms Conservancy was designed with the intention another school would be built on the site in the future. He said the City of Madison still plans for a street to go north-south from Blackhawk to Old Sauk Road to provide access. There are also two east-west streets that provide access to the school. Others noted previous public documents and commentary are available about plans for an elementary school and a new road so no residents should be surprised.

Michaud said to bring down the costs, the square footage was reduced by about 6,000 feet but no programs were cut. The school would have 25 classrooms along with three bubble classrooms. Square footage was also cut out of the gymnasium, although it would still be larger than any of the gymnasiums in the six District elementary schools. The plans include geothermal, which would likely be located north of the building.

Mavroulis noted a Makerspace area and collaboration spaces are the only things in the proposed school that are not in the other elementary schools. Michaud added new schools are built to make sure spaces are appropriate for programming needs, whereas older schools tend to just turn a classroom or storage room into other spaces.
MHS will involve multiple additions and demolition of parts of the school on the south side of the building, Michaud said. Capacity will grow from slightly more than 2,100 to 3,000 students. He said to bring down the costs some square footage was also reduced but no programming was eliminated.

Phase 1 would occur on the north end and start in 2020. Phase 2 would demolish of parts on the south end and include a new 3-story addition, along with heavy renovation, and start in 2021. Once completed, MHS would have about 350,000 square feet, with nearly 295,000 in new construction.

The Board had questions about parking and Michaud noted there was a parking comparison between current and future spaces. Michaels said the project would result in 14 fewer stalls than currently. Mavroulis  noted, however, that  70-80 percent of the current CSCS lot sits empty on school days, while there are also spots available in the MHS large parking lot, especially first semester each school year.

A main entrance would be located on the north and south end, which Michaud believes makes sense considering the size of the school and the amount of programming taking place in each location.

Director of Secondary Learning Laura Love said the District is considering putting students into one of 6-7 learning communities, with CSCS being one of them. Students would be grouped by areas of interest. She said this is another way to make the school feel smaller. Michaud said this will also allow the school to lock down and separate areas in case of a school safety situation. Mavroulis noted the physical environment will change compared to what MHS is now.

"It's going to be very, very different,'' Mavroulis said.

Michaud then reviewed each of the content areas and the space they would have. He also shared plans to improve circulation around the school. He said research shows students are gravitating toward spaces outside of classrooms. As a result, EUA plans to design circulation spaces for learning, while still allowing for visibility to monitor students, making it a more positive and safe environment.

Premo noted the proposed projects are far enough along that the current costs don't have a plus-minus margin of 5 percent. He also said Findorff and built in for inflation with each project depending on when each one would start.

A new elementary school would cost $33 million, which also includes the cost for adding a street that runs north-south. The rebuilt and expanded high school would cost $100.2 million, while the Park cafeteria addition would cost $4.26 million and the CSCS renovation would cost $620,000.

Director of Business Services Lori Ames then reviewed the operational costs. She noted District officials have spent a lot of time identifying how much would be needed to bring the buildings online and the timing and determined it was $4.8 million. The District also wanted to respect the Board's wishes to deal with some other challenges, such as safety and technology, Ames said.

The District plans to use $2.8 million in the first year, which would include some one-time expenditures. The District plans to use the full $4.8 million in the second year, which would again include some one-time expenditures. By Year 3, the District would need all $4.8 million for operational needs.

Among the one-time expenditures the District is proposing doing with operational funds are a Sauk Trail kitchen upgrade, furniture and kitchen needs at Park, additional buses to transport students to a seventh elementary school, technology upgrades and safety and security enhancements.

Mavroulis also noted the District wants to hire an elementary principal a year before the school opens in  order that they can hire new staff and purchase curriculum. He also said rather than hiring an outside construction manager, which other districts have done and is quite expensive, the District would like Bill Eberhardt to fill that role as he transitions toward retirement. Eberhardt could then train his replacement and retire after the projects are completed.

Ames then briefly reviewed the tax impact of a capital and operational referendum question. Tammy Olszewski of Ehlers, Inc., noted is estimating borrowing at 4.3 percent, which is still very conservative despite expected Fed rate increases, she said. If the interest rate isn't that high, the tax impact will be lower.

Ames and Mavroulis then reviewed possible language for capital and operational referendum questions. Ames said she will reach out to experts and find out how specific the District can be in the capital question. The Board also wondered if the operational question can include specific wording about one-time projects such as technology and safety and security upgrades.

Mavroulis also noted MCPASD is looking at all of the capital and operational questions districts in Wisconsin asked in 2016 to determine the best language to use.

The Board plans to vote on any referendum questions at its regular meeting on July 16.