Your Voice Matters: Facilities Master Planning Process
The Upper Arlington community came together over the course of two and a half years to craft a long-term, financially sensible master plan for our aging schools.
Our school buildings are, on average, more than 60 years old, and the cost to repair and maintain them continues to rise. This community-centered process was launched in 2015 in an effort to control those costs and prevent classroom funds from being diverted to cover facilities needs.
Throughout this process, thousands of residents have shared their thoughts on the best path forward for our aging schools by volunteering on a building team, taking an online survey, attending a community meeting or hosting or attending one of the 100 small-group coffee chats conducted by the superintendent and the chief operating officer.
The result of this community feedback is the master plan, finalized by the Board of Education in May 2017.
The master plan outlines rebuilding the high school, renovating or rebuilding the five elementary schools and repairing the middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School. It also outlines a two-phase implementation, with the first phase consisting of work at the high school and the elementary schools as well as addressing drainage issues and installing a turf field and baseball/softball diamonds on district-owned property behind Tremont Elementary School. The master plan also calls for the largest private fundraising effort in the history of the district to offset the cost to homeowners. In addition, the master plan calls for looking into the possibility of selling the district’s central office and using those funds toward relocation, potentially to the high school.
Note: These are preliminary cost estimates based on first-quarter 2019 dollars.
Based on the feedback from the community, Treasurer/CFO Andrew Geistfeld recommended in May that the Board of Education pursue a $230 million bond issue combined with a 3.75-mill operating levy for the November 7, 2017, ballot. The bond issue, at an additional 5.17 mills of debt service, would fund the first phase of the master plan. The 3.75-mill operating levy would allow the district to continue offering the high-quality academic programs our community expects for its students. Combined, these issues would add approximately $312 a year in property taxes per $100,000 of home valuation (market value) as determined by the Franklin County auditor.
During the June 6 meeting, the Board of Education unanimously approved the first of two resolutions required to place the combined bond issue and operating levy on the November 7, 2017, ballot. During June 28 meeting, the Board of Education approved the second resolution required to place the combined operating levy and bond issue on the November 7 ballot ( Board of Education takes final step to request funding for community's master plan).
On November 7, Upper Arlington voters endorsed rebuilding the high school and renovating or rebuilding all five elementary schools in a vote of 55% to 45% for Issue 43.
Facilities Master Plan Final Report
Financial Advisory Board Final Findings Report
Initial draft renderings of first-phase projects
(Note: These are conceptual renderings, not designs. If the ballot issue is approved, there will be a community-driven process for designing the new and renovated buildings.)
Learn more about the Productivity and Efficiency Work Group and each phase of the facilities master planning process below.
The call for launching a facilities master planning process came from a group of community volunteers during the 2014 strategic planning process. This group, known as the Productivity and Efficiency Work Group, was composed of residents with expertise in various areas of business and financial management.
The group was tasked with studying the efficiency and productivity of the district. These volunteers identified the cost of maintaining the district’s aging school buildings as their biggest concern.
In a briefing paper summarizing its findings, the group reported:
Findings: The district’s buildings have a cumulative appraised value of more than $150 million, but they are averaging 60 years of age and are currently maintained on a year-by-year basis. The work team feels that the district should take a more proactive approach to allow for future efficiencies and long-term planning. The group identified significant deficiencies with deferred maintenance items and a limited capacity for flexibility in district buildings.
Recommendation: There will be a need for future capital to meet these needs, and the team strongly recommends that the district engage the community to help develop a master plan for its facilities as soon as possible. This plan must ensure that the district’s facilities not only remain safe, dry and secure, but also support the educational and instructional needs of current and future generations of Upper Arlington students and staff… the team feels this area of focus is essential to the long-term financial health of the district. This is the team’s main area of concern and it recommends an all-encompassing approach, including employing a comprehensive analysis model to ensure the district is maximizing the tax dollars spent on facilities today and tomorrow.
The Upper Arlington Board of Education agreed with the group’s findings on facilities and quickly began incorporating its recommendation into the district’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, which was finalized in December 2014.
The assessment phase began with the launch of the master planning process in early 2015. During this phase, the district formed the Facilities Task Force, a team of twelve community members with expertise in the areas of construction, law, real estate, and business. This team provided oversight and a community voice in the implementation of the master planning process.
The district also formed building teams for each of the district's nine school buildings. More than 300 community volunteers — many of whom are alumni of the schools or parents/grandparents of former, current or future students — answered the call for volunteers to serve as experts and committed stakeholders for their school(s) of choice.
Also during the assessment phase, the community learned the results of a physical assessment of the district’s school buildings as well as an educational adequacy assessment. The physical assessment concluded that, although the buildings have been well maintained, it would cost approximately $188 million to simply repair and maintain the district’s school buildings over the next 15 years. The educational adequacy assessment — which evaluated many qualities of the schools that relate to the student experience such as security and classroom size — found the classrooms in our schools to be undersized, outdated and inadequate for future education. (To review the district-wide assessments as well as assessments specific to each school building, please visit the Building Summaries and Assessments page.)
The assessment phase also contained the first two community engagement sessions attended by more than 500 residents. These meetings served as an opportunity for community members to get a firsthand update on the master planning process, ask questions and provide feedback.
Assessment Phase Useful Links
During the second phase, the options phase, the community volunteers on the building teams explored options for each of the nine school buildings that ranged from repair to rebuild. The district gathered feedback from Upper Arlington residents at a third community engagement session to help refine the options, and in the spring of 2016 at a fourth community engagement session estimated costs for each option were presented for community feedback.
For several months beginning in the spring of 2016, the district collected feedback on the options through an online survey open to all Upper Arlington residents, a professional community-wide phone survey, and online surveys of the building teams and the Facilities Task Force. In all, the district received more than 3,000 responses.
Meanwhile, building team members at both the high school and Jones Middle School brought additional questions and ideas to the district’s attention, leading to the creation of a second renovate option for Jones and fifth and sixth rebuild options for the high school. These options were shared with community members during a building team summit in September 2016 and through a second online survey, which garnered more than 1,000 responses.
All of the community’s feedback was used to formulate a master plan recommendation in October 2016. After two additional months of collecting community feedback on the recommendation, the Board of Education unanimously approved the master plan on December 13, 2016 (District Master Plan Recommendation Report). The master plan outlines rebuilding Upper Arlington High School, renovating or rebuilding the district’s five elementary schools, and repairing the two middle schools and Burbank Early Childhood School. Several considerations — including the phasing, scope and funding of the master plan as well as the district’s need for an operating levy — were identified as areas for community discussion and feedback during the decisions phase.
Options Phase Useful Links
Master Plan Recommendation Presentation to the Board of Education - October 10, 2016
Recommended Options Slides (including text descriptions of each recommended option, October 10, 2016)
The decisions phase began in January 2017 and ended in May 2017. At the beginning of this phase, district Treasurer/CFO Andrew Geistfeld formed the Financial Advisory Board (FAB), a team of community volunteers with significant experience in business management and the financing and management of facilities improvement projects. The FAB was tasked with providing initial findings on the funding, phasing and scope of the master plan, the need for an operating levy and several other additional needs identified during the master planning process.
The Financial Advisory Board issued a report with its initial draft findings in March 2017 (Financial Advisory Board Initial Findings Report), and district administration then began a weeks-long process to gather feedback on these findings from as many residents as possible so that the Financial Advisory Board could come back together in late April 2017 to finalize its findings.
In all, approximately 2,400 community members shared their thoughts through a fifth community engagement session, a building team survey, a community-wide online survey, a Facilities Task Force online survey and a professional community phone survey.
The Financial Advisory Board reconvened to review the community feedback and refine its initial findings. The team’s final report was presented to the Board of Education on May 9, 2017 (Financial Advisory Board Final Findings Report). At the same meeting, Superintendent Paul Imhoff and Treasurer/CFO Andrew Geistfeld made recommendations to the Board of Education regarding final updates to the master plan and the November 2017 ballot issue.
The Board of Education voted unanimously at that meeting to approve the final updates to the master plan (Facilities Master Plan Final Report). Those updates include:
Implementing the master plan in two phases, with the first phase consisting of rebuilding the high school and renovating or rebuilding the five elementary schools.
Rebuilding Upper Arlington High School facing Zollinger Road based upon the principles of easier access for community members and first responders, a more efficient layout of the site and a logical location for a future addition, if needed.
Addressing drainage issues and installing a turf field and baseball/softball diamonds on district-owned land behind Tremont Elementary School that is adjacent to Northam Park and is utilized by many high school teams for practice and competition.
Raising at least $5 million in private donations — the largest private fundraising effort in the district’s history — to offset the cost of the master plan to homeowners.
Identifying $23 million in scope reductions for the first phase of the master plan during a design phase, which would begin immediately following the passage of a combined bond issue and operating levy and involve any and all community members who are interested in participating.
Looking into the possibility of selling the district’s central offices, currently at 1950 North Mallway Drive, and using those funds toward relocation, potentially to the high school.
Based on the feedback from the community, Treasurer/CFO Andrew Geistfeld recommended that the Board of Education pursue a $230 million bond issue combined with a 3.75-mill operating levy for the November 7, 2017, ballot. The bond issue, at an additional 5.17 mills of debt service, would fund the first phase of the master plan. The 3.75-mill operating levy would allow the district to continue offering the high-quality academic programs our community expects for its students. Combined, these issues would add approximately $312 a year in property taxes per $100,000 of home valuation as determined by the Franklin County auditor.
During the June 6 meeting, the Board of Education took the first of two votes required to place the combined bond issue and operating levy on the November 7, 2017, ballot. During June 28 meeting, the Board of Education took the second vote to place the issue on the ballot.