School Board accepts facilities master plan
February 24, 2015
At the Feb. 23 meeting, the Moorhead School Board accepted the facilities master plan with recommendations from Cuningham Group and the Facilities Master Planning Task Force to invest $78 million in the first phase of new construction and remodeling necessary to address student growth.
District administration now must develop plans for the next steps. Superintendent Lynne Kovash explained that a prioritization and implementation plan with a timeline will be brought to the School Board in the coming months. The plans will include community and staff task forces to further review aspects of the plan. If a bond referendum were to be scheduled for the general election in November, the School Board would need to approve the question at least 74 days before the election.
Facilities Master Plan Recommendations
The first phase of the Facilities Master Planning Task Force’s recommendation is to build a new grades K-4 elementary school for 750 students for approximately $24.9 million to be open by 2018. Horizon Middle would receive a grades 5-6 addition for 1,200 students and a 750-student performance space for approximately $43.1 million.
This will create a K-4, 5-8 and 9-12 grade configuration to minimize transitions for students. This phase also renovates the current elementary schools to improve safety and restore flexible learning spaces that have been eliminated during the space shortage, and it provides for safety upgrades at Moorhead High School. Probstfield Center for Education will be restored to an early childhood center with district and Community Education offices once kindergarten returns to the elementary schools.
The second phase of the recommendation includes two options for Moorhead High School. One is to build a new high school for 2,250 students for approximately $109 million and repurpose the existing high school to meet the district and community’s needs. The other is to build an addition to the existing high school to replace the 1966 section for $59 million. More space will be needed by 2021 or 2022 so this decision will need to be made within the next few years.
Decisions also will need to be made regarding facilities for Red River Area Learning Center, Adult Basic Education and transportation. The transportation facility needs substantial improvements, according to the master plan, and both Red River Area Learning Center and Adult Basic Education lack sufficient space.
The recommendations in the facilities master plan must now be reviewed. According to Kovash, district employees will be asked for feedback, and district administration will be gathering additional information to help determine priorities from the plan and how to implement them.
Student Enrollment Growth Drives Needs
The district’s elementary schools were designed for approximately 750 students and are now serving more than 850 students, resulting in the loss of flexible learning spaces for hands-on, collaborative and project-based learning. Horizon Middle School reached its 1,300-student capacity this year.
Student enrollment is projected to increase approximately 3 percent each year for the next five years. Elementary enrollment was 2,851 in November 2014 and is projected to increase to 3,357 by 2020-21. Middle school enrollment is 1,315 and is projected to reach 1,870 by 2022-23. Grades 9-12 enrollment is currently 1,725 and is projected to reach 2,542 by 2024-25. A professional demographics study will be completed by the end of March 2015.
As a short-term solution, the district built additions to Robert Asp and Probstfield Elementary Schools this year and will add on to S.G. Reinertsen Elementary next year. The refinancing of existing long-term debt offset the cost of these additions.
Task Force Process Leads to Plan
As a long-term solution, Moorhead Area Public Schools began working with Cuningham Group in August 2014 in preparing a comprehensive facility master plan to guide facilities planning and improvements for the next 10 years. Between September 2014 and January 2015, a facilities steering committee and a Facilities Master Planning Task Force worked to develop a fiscally responsible plan to address the district’s significant need for student capacity, along with safety and 21st century learning needs.
Throughout the collaborative process, task force members participated in six workshops. At the first session, the following shared facility vision was developed to guide the facility planning process:
“We envision safe, inviting, and inclusive learning environments that support a sustainable culture of excellence in 21st century learning, while fostering meaningful and collaborative community partnerships.”
Task force members also created facility principles focused on attractive and inviting spaces, being adaptable and flexible, being student centered, meeting technology and safety needs, and ensuring quality and excellence in education. They developed facility standards, which were used to conduct a gap analysis on how the district’s current facilities meet the principles and standards. Finally, task force members reviewed results of the gap analysis, studied both district-wide and site-specific concepts for Moorhead Area Public Schools, and identified areas of common ground leading to the final recommendations.
Additionally, Cuningham Group and its engineering consultants completed a facility condition assessment to evaluate all of the district’s facilities, including interiors, exteriors, finishes, and mechanical, electrical and structural systems.