Long Range Planning Committee April Update

The district’s Long Range Planning Committee, comprised of district staff and community members, met at Glebe Street Elementary on April 8 to review district facilities usage.

Following a tour of the Glebe building, it was reiterated that the purpose of the committee is to answer the following question: “Are there more efficient and effective options for organizing the district’s grades and schools to ensure a quality education for students while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers?  If so, what are these options?”

Consultant Alan Pole of Castallo and Silky, LLC then listed the committee’s takeaways from the last two meetings:

  • The Advisory Committee was formed to assist the consultants throughout the process, but the final recommendation made to the Board will be the consultant’s.
  • The district has seen declining student enrollments and will likely continue to see enrollments drop.
  • The elementary instructional program is comparable across all three schools.
  • The Junior High School program is typical for a school district of this size. The High School Program provides many alternatives for students.
  • Class sizes in the junior high and high school are strong.
  • There are an extensive number of interscholastic athletic opportunities available to the students in Johnstown.

Next the committee members studied a table providing information on the age, square footage, grades housed, and students served in each of the six school buildings.  Mr. Pole noted that all of the buildings are of similar age, except Knox, which is approximately 30 years older than the other buildings. All of the elementary buildings are located on one level. The junior high has four floors and the high school has two floors.

The committee further reviewed the school classroom usage in each of the six buildings. The three elementary schools are somewhat similar; Glebe Street and Jansen Avenue are replicas of each other. Glebe Street Elementary School has 17 full-size rooms with 11 used for grade level classrooms and six used for special education, AIS, art, and other related purposes.

There are 19 full-size classrooms in Pleasant Avenue Elementary with 14 being used for grade level classes and five other rooms for special education, art, music, and other related purposes. Warren Street Elementary has 28 full size classrooms with 13 being used for grade level classes and 15 other classrooms being used for music, art, speech, and other related purposes.

Jansen Avenue has 16 classrooms but does not serve as a Johnstown elementary school; rather, this building is leased to BOCES for an annual lease cost of $123,374. Given the expenses for running this building, the district essentially breaks even financially.

At Knox Junior High School, there are 36 full-size classrooms with 16 being used for core courses and 20 being used for AIS, music, art, and other similar classes. There is a significant amount of unused space at the Junior High School. The High School has 48 full size classrooms with 27 being used for core academic classes and 21 used for special education, computer centers, and other similar courses. Mr. Pole talked about the concept of classroom usage and looked at how many periods of the day classrooms were used. This analysis showed that the classroom utilization at the high school is at approximately 70%. While this is slightly below the optimum of 80% utilization, the high school is being used quite efficiently.

Mr. Pole next explained that all school districts and BOCES have a building condition survey (BCS) done every five years that provides an analysis of building needs by an architect.  NYS law requires this periodic survey.  A summary of the projected costs of repairs/renovations listed in Johnstown’s 2015 BCS indicated that a cost of approximately $38 million dollars would be required to address all of the issues. He also said that no district ever addresses all of the issues cited.  Alan explained that this was a typical type of listing for a district the size of Johnstown. He also explained that state aid is available at approximately 84% of approved costs to assist the district with financing any capital improvements. He also reviewed the considerable amount of work that had been done in the two most recent capital projects and some areas of consideration for future projects.

Mr. Pole also reviewed the utility costs for each of the six school buildings. This is a relatively small cost when compared with the cost of capital projects. If a district decides to close a facility but maintain ownership and keep the building in good condition, approximately 40% of the utility costs can be saved.

The facilities presentation concluded with three big ideas or takeaways:

  • There is an abundance of space in the Johnstown school buildings
  • Room utilization at the high school is slightly below optimum
  • The leasing of Jansen Avenue to BOCES is approximately a break even proposition
  • The 2015 Building Condition Survey identified approximately $38,000,000 worth of work to be considered

Consultant Bill Silky then led the committee in a discussion about possible options that should be considered by the district for the future.  He began by informing the committee that the process will first start by brainstorming “feasible” (it could be done) options and then narrowing the list to “desirable” (it is a good idea) options.  Pros and cons for each option will be listed as there is rarely a perfect option.  Mr. Silky indicated that the consultants have begun this process with two options they believe are feasible give the information reviewed to date: (a) keeping the school buildings and grades organized as they are currently and (b) moving the sixth grade to Knox and creating a middle school, closing Glebe Street, making Warren Street a K-2 primary school, and placing grades 3-5 at Pleasant Avenue.  He informed the committee that two additional options were looked at and rejected as not feasible including (a) closing Knox and sending the seventh grade to Warren Street and the eighth grade to the High School and (b) closing Knox and having Glebe Street house grades 2-4, making Warren Street a 5-7 building, and move 8th grade to the High School.

Mr. Silky then distributed worksheets with the two feasible options the consultants had identified, broke the committee into groups at tables, asked them to discuss these options and critique the consultants’ analysis, and add any other options they felt the consultant team should explore.  At the end of this activity each group reported out and Mr. Silky said he would summarize their work and share it at the next meeting for continued discussion of the options.

The next advisory committee meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 13, in the Warren Street Elementary School Library and is open to the public. District transportation operations will be discussed. An optional tour of the school will begin at 5:45 p.m. for anyone who is interested.

The committee previously met on January 14 to review student enrollment projections, and on February 25 for an overview of instructional programs.