School Board talks facilities upgrade cost estimates
- Published: March 29, 2023
After presenting eight potential options for school facilities upgrades to the community at a February listening session, the Board of Education discussed preliminary budget figures for each of those options at its regular meeting on Thursday, March 9.
The discussion was overseen by district contracted architect Mike Ruetschle, of Ruetschle Architects, who broke down a draft of costs for each option, which range from $30.8 million to $73 million, with six of the eight options qualifying for 27% construction cost rebates via the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, or OFCC. A chart outlining each plan and associated preliminary cost estimates, as well as figures for qualifying rebates from the OFCC, is on page 11.
Options A1 and A2, which would provide either critical or complete renovations of Mills Lawn Elementary School and McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High schools, do not qualify for OFCC rebates. Because the OFCC will only offer rebates on state-approved plans for campuses serving 350 students or more, rebates would be available for Options B1 and B2, which would combine all district students in one facility at the current location of the middle and high schools on East Enon Road by either building a new school on the site or renovating and adding new construction at the site.
Ruetschle cited future enrollment estimates of 270 for elementary school students, 133 for middle school students and 268 for high school students; he added that the enrollment estimates are not final, and could result in changes in square footage and cost for all of the OFCC-supported plans.
OFCC rebates would also be available for portions of upgrades outlined in Options C1–C4, which involve maintaining the current two campuses but reconfiguring the schools for grades K–4 at the Mills Lawn site and grades 5–12 at East Enon Road through either completely new construction at both sites, renovation at both sites or a combination of new construction and renovation. The reconfiguring of the schools, moving fifth and sixth grades to the East Enon Road campus, would help the district meet the 350-student requirement for an OFCC rebate.
Ruetschle stressed that, though the cost estimates for Options A1 and A2 were discussed at length as the charge of the Facilities Committee, which met from March through December last year, the estimates for Options B1–C4 are “new information.” The process of determining the new estimates for these plans, he said, involved looking through program requirements supplied by the OFCC and meeting with Superintendent Terri Holden and Principals Megan Winston and Jack Hatert to “review specifically, space by space, what the needs would be for both a K–12 [school] and a 5–12 [school].”
The square footage of each plan outlined in Options B1–C4, Ruetschle said, was based on the maximum allotted square footage the OFCC will support for its rebate program, based on student enrollment.
“Each number of students gets a certain square footage assigned by the state,” he said.
Options B1–C4 all include plans with square footage above what would be supported by the OFCC’s rebate plan, Ruetschle said, based on educational needs outlined by the superintendent and principals in their meetings with him. Some of those educational needs, he said, included expanded space in special education, music and band classrooms beyond what the OFCC recommends.
“In my experience with other districts, the state square footage that they provide and co-fund generally isn’t sufficient to meet educational needs,” Ruetschle said, and added that any square footage outside of that approved by OFCC will not be included in calculations for a state-funded rebate.
Board members expressed some concerns over the budget estimates with regard to storm shelter requirements; because Gov. Mike DeWine in January signed into law a bill that, among other things, removed storm shelter requirements by the state, none of the plans currently being considered have storm shelters folded into their costs.
Ruetschle said there would be “opportunities” in many of the plans to harden walls in portions of the buildings to serve as storm shelters. However, he clarified, Option A1, which would include the destruction of the modular building currently serving as the band room at Mills Lawn but does not include the construction of a new band room, will need further scrutiny in terms of space for a storm shelter if the board decides to pursue the plan.
“That would be something that the board would likely want us to drill down on — does your safety team feel like there’s sufficient space to do that?” Ruetschle said.
Concerns also arose over cost estimates for Options C1 and C3, the estimates for which fluctuate by about $10 million within the scope of each plan. These cost differences, Ruetschle said, are based on the fact that both potential plans include renovation at one or both campuses, and those renovations are based on the numbers calculated for plans A1 and A2 — that is, either addressing critical upgrades or pursuing renovation to “like-new” conditions.
Board member Luisa Bieri Rios raised a concern that the cost estimates for the A1 plan are based on an assumption of cost savings of around $8 million. These potential savings were identified in January by members of the Facilities Committee, who highlighted items that they believed could cost less than the estimates provided by maintenance plan advisor Motz Engineering and structural engineering firm THP Limited last year, pending further facilities evaluations.
“I would want us to be able to corroborate with [Ruetschle] and kind of get to some stronger, concrete numbers,” Bieri Rios said.
“With [Ruetschle], we should have these conversations with [Motz Engineering] and THP to come to some final [estimates],” board member Judith Hempfling said in response.
Bieri Rios also asked how the board should consider the efficiencies that could be created in a school where multiple grade levels — K–12 or 5–12 — would share space, like a gym, kitchen, music room or media center, and how that consideration might affect what plan to pursue.
“There are some things [in the current school buildings] that just are inefficient by the fact that they’re currently undersized,” Ruetschle said. “So you almost have to go line by line through it and kind of drill down into the details.”
Board Vice President Dorothée Bouquet agreed, but said that, because the board is not yet sure of the “big picture” in terms of whether it intends to pursue a single-campus, two campuses, new construction, renovation or a hybrid plan, it’s difficult currently to “go through the line-by-line.”
“So the numbers to watch right now are square footage, and as those numbers change, the budget,” board member Amy Magnus suggested.
“Absolutely,” Ruetschle replied.
To view documents presented at the board meeting, including more detailed budget drafts and an OFCC worksheet detailing square footage allowances, go to ysschools.org/board-of-education and click on “BoardDocs” in the upper left corner. To view the March 9 meeting in full, visit the “Yellow Springs Schools Board Meetings” channel on YouTube.
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