FAQ: The Need
1. Why do we need to build new schools?
MISD schools are overcrowded and over capacity. Our four K – 8 schools are on average 34% over design capacity today and by 2015 will be 41% over capacity.
Common spaces such as lunchrooms, gyms, playgrounds, storage and admin spaces are extremely strained. Double and shortened PE classes, three-lunch scheduling and multiple repeated assemblies are common practice because there is not enough room to fit all of the students at a time. We have lost dedicated spaces for art, music, and science and technology curriculum. Science classes are often taught in classrooms without sinks, some classes are taught in the multipurpose room when lunch is not being served. Art is limited to projects that can be completed in a period in the classroom.
Every inch of our schools is being used today. All possible areas have been repurposed as learning areas, and teachers and administrators are creative about creating small group and individualized learning spaces. Our hallways have become our multipurpose rooms – they are lined with students, parapros and parent helpers doing small group and individualized work.
Additional students have been handled to date by building 26 portables, but we can only add 2-4 more portables to our current school sites. By 2015 we will have run out of room for the additional 155 students that are expected. Without expanded school capacity, MISD may need to build a ‘portable school’ on the North Mercer Campus.
2. Why can’t we remodel the schools again?
In recent years, surrounding school districts have replaced rather than remodeled school facilities. Why? Faced with rising student populations and aging schools, much like our own situation, these districts went to voters for bond authority to modernize facilities and expand capacity. In fact, a review of recent capital schools projects in Bellevue, Renton and Issaquah reveals new construction rather than remodeling of old buildings with almost no exceptions.
84%, 91%, 100%, 100%, 108%, 130%: Remodel Costs Surprisingly High
No, these are not your kids’ test scores. These are the fraction of the cost of new construction a remodel would have cost for six facilities in the Lake Washington School District. This fits with findings from the Mercer Island’s 21st Century Facilities Planning Committee, which found that a school remodel costs 84% of new construction. Why so high? The answers vary by facility, but many factors include:
· Building Orientation: Daylight and Ventilation Standards Raise Remodeling Costs
· Mechanical Systems Replacement and Structural Enhancement for Remodeling More Costly
· Site Coverage and Drainage Constraints Raise Remodeling Costs
· Educational Program Support More Constrained in Remodeling
· Disruption to Educational Delivery / Phasing Costs Higher for Remodeling
· Contingency Costs Higher for Remodeling
· Demolition Costs Higher for Remodeling
Quality and Long-term Cost Effectiveness for Mercer Island Schools
Our elementary and middle schools were built in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s, designed to last approximately 50 years, and then remodeled in the mid-1990′s. At the time of the 1990’s remodel it was anticipated that the buildings’ useful life would be an additional 25 to 30 years. The rebuilding timing is being driven by capacity needs, but is still close to that window. Another remodeling undertaken in the mid-2010′s would not solve the capacity crisis and would leave us with 60-year-old buildings, compromised educational programs, inefficient energy use, and facilities well behind neighboring communities in quality and scope of program support.
Therefore, the School Board has proposed a school bond to replace our Island Middle School and three elementary schools with new facilities.
3. How long are buildings supposed to last (wasn’t the last remodel supposed to last 30 years)?
Engineering studies show that most buildings from that era were designed to last approximately 30 years; when upgraded they will last another 20 years. All MISD schools, including the North Mercer Campus buildings (e.g., Youth Theatre Northwest, Day Cares and Pre-Schools, etc.) were built between 1954 and 1965 and remodeled in the 1990’s except for the North Mercer Campus buildings. Our current elementary and middle schools are 47 to 57 years old and are at the end of their life spans. The North Mercer Buildings are nearing 50 years old without any modernization in five decades!
Past remodels were very strategic and extended the life of these buildings in a productive, cost effective way. The projections that the remodels would last 30 years were accurate. What has changed since then is the increase in MISD student enrollment that has led to a capacity issue.
Our response to this capacity crisis must also continue to preserve our District’s position as the most attractive school district in the region. Facilities are a factor that young families consider when choosing schools for their children. Surrounding communities are almost universally choosing to rebuild their similar – aged schools instead of remodeling. In fact, most east side districts have already rebuilt a significant portion of their schools.
4. Why don’t you just add more portables?
Portables do not solve the issue of overcrowded common spaces such as libraries, bathrooms, gym/ multipurpose rooms etc. Further, we are running out of room to house portables on our school properties. We only have space for 2 – 4 more portables across our elementary/ middle schools, and that is not enough room for the additional 155 students that are projected to enroll by 2015. Without the proposed capacity expansion, MISD may need to build a ‘portable school’ on the North Mercer campus. It seems fairly certain that parents would object to their children being sent to a new ‘portable school’ when existing schools run completely out of room – and preventing this is one of the reasons to act now with urgency.
5. Why do we need two-story buildings?
We need greater capacity to house 800 additional students we expect by 2020. The size of our sites do not allow us to simply expand our current 1 story buildings ‘out’ or replace them with larger footprint buildings, because the schools are already at impermeable surface limits. Additional limitations to an expanded footprint are created by building setback, play area standards, fire safety access that requires that fire trucks have paved access around the perimeter of the building, and standards for natural lighting and ventilation.
Gaining extra capacity for classrooms and adequate common areas requires a second story.