In Building Our Future Together, we’ve developed a future-ready master facilities plan for our schools. Explore our planning process, findings, recommendations, and rationale.
After accepting the recommendations of a Facilities Committee in 2018, the Board of Education hired DLR Group architects to facilitate the development of a comprehensive educational master facilities plan. Coined “Building Our Future Together,” the purpose was to use a highly collaborative process to ensure that our school facilities properly support education and pedagogy and to guide capital investments over the next 10-15 years or more.
The two-year undertaking, lead by a “Core Team” of community stakeholders, included five phases to ensure that community concerns and aspirations were understood, considered and incorporated:
And finally, in phase five, community feedback was sought to synthesize findings and recommendations into a long-term game plan for the Board.
In completing their charge, the Core Team found that:
Considering its findings, the Core Team recommends that the Board of Education:
School has changed, and our facilities should reflect evolving teaching and learning needs. The last decade (2010-present) is the longest timespan without major school construction or renovation in Batavia since 1955.
These needs start with students and recognizing the varied pathways our students will take when they leave Batavia Public Schools. Whichever path our students choose, we need to:
1a) Embracing the Core Team’s guiding principles and belief statements. In exploring the current conditions and needs for Building Our Future Together, the Core Team developed the following guiding principles:
In addition, the Core Team identified “must-have” items and spaces:
The Core Team also identified aspects that stakeholders do not want changed:
1b) Continuing to operate six elementary schools. Student enrollment has declined by 15% over the last decade and will likely fall by 2% annually for the next five years or more. Accordingly, the Core Team considered closing one or more of our six elementary schools. Preliminary analyses do not indicate significant operational cost savings, if at all, primarily due to offsetting student transportation costs. Further, potential impacts on home values and neighborhoods are uncertain and not likely positive.
Instead, the Core Team relied upon the input received from the community survey, which indicates a strong preference for maintaining all six neighborhood elementary schools.
1c) Replacing the four oldest elementary schools. The current facility conditions of Alice Gustafson Elementary (1957), H.C. Storm Elementary (1978), J.B. Nelson Elementary (1955) and Louise White Elementary (1978) indicate that it would be financially prudent to replace, rather than renovate, these facilities.
The cost of outstanding repairs and improvements to meet the vision are so extensive that rebuilding is most economical. Additionally, long-term maintenance costs are cyclical and compound due to inflation. Community feedback supported the school rebuilding option (52%), while approximately 34% disagreed, and 14% were neutral.
1d) Renovating the four remaining schools. The remaining schools, Batavia High School (1967), Rotolo Middle School (1992), Grace McWayne School (2001), and Hoover-Wood School (2001) require significant updates and renovations to align with the proposed vision and improve learning conditions.
The Board is responsible for over 65% of the average annual property tax bill in Batavia. While proportionally consistent with neighboring communities, Batavia’s property tax burden is already significant. The community is likely unwilling to support property tax increases.
2a) Increasing annual allocations for capital projects. For the last five years, the Board has allocated $1.5 to 2.0 million annually (1.5 to 1.7% of expenditures) to capital projects for safety compliance, maintenance of current assets or equipment, and improvements that enhance facilities, infrastructure, or programs.
The National Council on School Facilities recommends investing 4% of a facilities’ current replacement value annually on periodic renewals, alternations, and maintenance, which implies that the Board should consider at least doubling its current annual allocation.
2b) Seeking a community referendum within current debt repayment structures. The scale of the work identified significantly exceeds the Board’s financial capacity. Further, anecdotal community feedback does not indicate support for tax increases. Since the Board’s current outstanding bond debt will be paid off in 2026, it should consider a community referendum for new debt to support the master facilities plan without increasing the tax burden.
2c) Leveraging fund balance and other revenue sources. The Board has considerably improved its financial health in recent years, moving from ISBE’s “financial watch” list to “recognition.” Also, due to the pandemic, budget surpluses in 2020 and 2021 (projected) were greater than anticipated. While current fund balances are not inordinate, one-time contributions toward facilities may be prudent if they do not jeopardize cash flow.
The Board will also receive more than $2 million for coronavirus relief from the federal government. While such monies may not be directly eligible for capital projects, they may temporarily relieve other funding needs.
Our current facility conditions are due, primarily, to underinvestment and lack of planning for facility improvements. Going forward, the Board should ensure that adequate funding for maintenance and improvement of facilities is integral to all budgetary and strategic planning, including monitoring and performance metrics.
3a) Balancing and coordinating financial capacity with priorities. An in-depth implementation plan is necessary to coordinate project details, cost estimates, priorities, timelines, and feasibility. Community feedback indicates strong preference for addressing high priorities soon or now (71%).
3b) Protect our investments, now and in the future. The Board has committed additional funds in recent years to address the backlog of deferred maintenance. Community feedback supporting addressing deferred maintenance (90%) which suggests that the District should take a proactive approach so that facilities are maintained in “good” or “fair” condition in the future.
3c) Seeking guidance from community engagement professionals. Among the 1,100 community survey respondents, most have students in school and some groups are underrepresented. Although the majority of respondents indicated support for replacing facilities in poor condition rather than renovating (57%, with 14% neutral and 30% opposed), more community discussion around this topic is warranted. A comprehensive engagement strategy around referendum planning is needed, and the Board should consider hiring professionals with this expertise.
To implement these recommendations, the Board should direct the Administration and its standing committees (e.g., Resource Responsibility Advisory Council, Capital Projects Committee) to: