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Viewpoint: Input needed on school scenarios

By Doug C. Carpenter

In early 2017 the Grand Forks School Board, through its Facilities Committee, began the process of creating a new Master Facility Plan. Conducting a review of existing facilities and creating a long-term plan is efficient and effective governance to provide facilities for a sound educational environment in a cost effective manner.

We followed a request for proposals process and eventually selected JLG Architects as the consultant to work with the Facilities Committee to complete the long-range facility assessment and facility master plan. The Facilities Committee and JLG have been working under guiding principles in the construction of the long-range plan. These principles are:

■ Advance educational adequacy and programmatic parity for district educational facilities.

■ Improve district operational efficiencies.

■ Provide a short-term (0-5 years), mid-term (6-10 years), and long-term (11-15 years) plan for maintenance of district facilities.

■ Assess district enrollment projections and the impact on existing and new building capacities.

■ Develop several facility pre-schematic design options for review by the district.

■ Provide a master plan that is implementable.

The committee, in conjunction with the consultant, have developed a preliminary report with various scenarios to be considered. The scenarios include two scenarios that have not received media or public attention. The first is the do nothing scenario where the district will react to facility issues on a case by case basis when a major system, i.e. heating, cooling or roof failure occurs. The status quo scenario is where the district will have a specific plan to address various issues on a proactive basis for the existing schools in the district.

The scenarios are just scenarios to be considered and are not recommendations by the committee or the consultants as has been reported by some of our local media.

We are now at the stage in our process to have the first opportunity for formal comment and input by the general public. There will be a public forum at 7 p.m. Monday Jan. 22 at South Middle School for the public to listen to a presentation by JLG, ask questions, and provide feedback through a survey questionnaire.

After consideration of feedback provided, the consultants will present their report to the school board in February. It is the intent of the school board to provide additional public meetings to discuss in more detail the meaning of educational adequacy and programmatic parity, as well as the financial ramifications of the different scenarios. We do not anticipate approval by the school board until mid to late fall. It is also important to note that the plan will contain short, mid and long-term components that will need to be updated for changing circumstances as time progresses.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank JLG for the many hours of sincere effort that they have put into this process. The attempts by some letter-writers to the Grand Forks Herald's editorial page to impugn JLG's integrity by casting aspersions that they are only providing scenarios that will result in them obtaining future business is way off the mark. JLG has been very professional and responsive to the Facilities Committee and district administration in its approach to and actions in the development of a master facility plan.

I also need to say that our facilities are in good shape due to the amazing efforts of our building and grounds staff. They have kept aging infrastructure working for many years beyond their intended life, but eventually heating, cooling, and air handling systems, as well as roofs fail and significant amounts will need to be spent to keep the facilities functioning. This makes it an appropriate time to consider different scenarios and determine what is important to the community and how we should meet the needs of providing facilities to meet the needs of our students in the 21st century.

The process will provide additional opportunities for community input and will be adjusted as necessary based on the community input that is received.

Please attend the public forum at South Middle School at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, as the facilities plan that is ultimately adopted will have an impact on all Grand Forks Public Schools and on all residents even if you don't have children in school.

Douglas C. Carpenter is president of the Grand Forks School Board.