Repairs, renovations to OPS buildings could cost up to $650 million -
Published Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 12:00 am / Updated at 11:33 am
Repairs, renovations to OPS buildings could cost up to $650 million

Repairs and renovations to Omaha Public Schools buildings could carry a price tag of up to $650 million.

The school district's latest facility study identifies $570 million in building upgrades for 79 schools, whose needs range from relatively simple maintenance projects — paint touch-ups and roof repairs — to multimillion-dollar classroom additions to ease overcrowding.

Additional work on alternative schools and outbuildings like school stadiums could send costs swelling to somewhere between $600 million and $650 million, said John Sova, a principal at RDG Planning & Design, the architecture and engineering firm that conducted the analysis.

The $570 million figure addresses infrastructure needs at existing buildings and does not include costs, or recommendations, for building new schools.

That amount would fund extensive improvements, especially in aging schools left out in OPS's last two bond issues, in 1988 and 1999. Some haven't seen major renovations or repairs in more than 25 years, including schools built from the 1950s to 1970s.

The initial report presented at Wednesday's school board meeting is not the final word on OPS's building needs, Sova said.

A final report could be completed in the next 60 days, Sova said. The school board and OPS administration will ultimately decide which, if any projects, are recommended for funding.

So is an OPS bond issue imminent?

Board members were mum on that, but they said the district would discuss in coming months how to pay for the lengthy list of improvements as part of a larger conversation that ties in with the district's new strategic plan.

“I want to make sure the public understands we're not going to address the facility study in a reactionary manner, where the board says, 'We need to go out there and build a new building and move kids in tomorrow,' ” board member Marian Fey said. “This is more information that will inform a much larger strategic plan discussion.”

The $570 million figure is more than double the cost of the district's last bond issue — a $254 million measure that voters approved in 1999. That financing ended an era of forced busing and was designed to bring students back to their neighborhood schools.

The facility study comes as OPS drafts its first strategic plan in more than 10 years.

The plan will be a road map guiding the district's direction over the next five years and could bring about far-reaching changes in the busing plan, high school programs and other issues that tie in to school capacity and construction.

RDG presented a similar report in 2009 that highlighted nearly $500 million in construction and renovation costs. The latest report divides the district's schools into three categories based on which have the greatest needs.

Group 1 schools, those that haven't been renovated since before 1988, are given priority.

They include 27 elementary schools, six middle schools and four high schools that would require $444 million in updates and additions, replacing everything from drafty windows to old boilers and incorporating new technology.

Group 2 schools include 15 schools that would receive $97 million worth of repairs, while upgrades for Group 3, which includes the district's newest and most recently renovated schools, carry a cost of $28 million.

The most expensive projects identified by RDG include $38 million in renovations at historic Central High School, including a $15 million addition; $25 million in upgrades and additions at South High; and a $23.9 million renovation and addition for Bryan High, where overcrowding has led to the use of modular classrooms.

Other big-ticket items include $25 million worth of upgrades and additions to Norris Middle School, $23 million for repairs and additions at Beveridge Middle School and $12.9 million of work at Indian Hill Elementary. A swimming pool could be added at Alice Buffett Middle School as part of a $7.3 million renovation and addition.

RDG's analysis was rooted in research of the schools, enrollment data and population and housing projections.

The firm looked at which sections of Omaha were the fastest-growing, how many students were opting out of OPS for other Learning Community schools, which schools were near or at capacity and how to make room for potential new programs, such as a preschool expansion.

Th district's kindergarten and elementary-age student population is expected to continue growing, straining school buildings as those students age. This year's kindergarten class was OPS's largest since the 1970s and is expected to hover around 4,300 students over the next several years.

Future student growth is expected to concentrate in northwest Omaha, where housing developments continue to spring up, and in South Omaha, where birthrates continue to rise.

Based on enrollment projections for the next five years, RDG predicted that 14 schools would be significantly over capacity by 2017-18, including six elementary schools in the south and two in the northwest, four middle schools and Bryan and Central high schools.

The board took no action on RDG's presentation.

Board members agreed that the district needed to move quickly and look into hiring a project manager that could work with OPS from the very beginning to set priorities for which schools need the most work.

Superintendent Mark Evans said he and Assistant Superintendent Jerry Bartee had already participated in conference calls with construction managers and consultants.

“These are big, big decisions that do correlate to the student assignment plan, that do correlate with the strategic plan, and it does require a lot of community engagement,” Evans said. “We may want to do surveys, see what does the community want, what's digestible for them and what is appropriate.”

Recommended work:

Group 1 Elementary Schools (no renovations from 1988 or 1999 bond issues)

– Belle Ryan $8,573,000

– Boyd $9,433,000

– Catlin $8,156,000

– Columbian $6,265,000

– Conestoga $9,049,000

– Crestridge $5,883,000

– Dodge $7,275,000

– Edison $7,920,000

– Field Club $7,127,000

– Florence $7,986,000

– Franklin $7,487,000

– Gilder $9,446,000

– Hartman $8,356,000

– Highland $6,596,000

– Indian Hill $12,981,000

– Joslyn $7,823,000

– Kellom $8,614,000

– King Primary $11,083,000

– Lothrop $7,075,000

– Masters $9,400,000

– Oak Valley $7,612,000

– Pawnee $8,689,000

– Pinewood $7,004,000

– Ponca $8,326,000

– Spring Lake $9,964,000

– Sunny Slope $8,749,000

– Western Hills $9,130,000

Group 1 Middle Schools (no renovations from 1988 or 1999 bond issues)

– Beveridge $23,377,000 ($6.7 million addition)

– Bryan $20,410,000 ($4.1 million addition)

– Hale $15,535,000

– Lewis and Clark $19,723,000 ($5 million addition)

– Morton $18,772,000

– Norris $25,324,000 ($5.6 million addition)

Group 1 High Schools (minor renovations from 1988 and 1999 bond issues)

– Bryan $23,942,000 ($10.8 million addition)

– Burke $19,891,000 ($9.9 million addition)

– Central $38,059,000 ($15.3 million addition)

– Northwest $13,596,000

Group 1 Total: $444,631,000/b>

Group 2 Elementary Schools (major renovations or built new from 1988 bond program through 1999)

– Adams $8,100,000

– Ashland Park Robbins $6,186,000

– Bancroft $7,458,000

– Benson West $6,852,000

– Central Park $4,361,000

– Dundee $3,029,000

– Fullerton $1,593,000

– Minne Lusa $1,470,000

– Picotte $2,648,000

– Prairie Wind $2,242,000

– Skinner $1,622,000

Group 2 Middle Schools (major renovations or built new from 1988 bond program through 1999)

– Monroe $2,607,000

Group 2 High Schools (major renovations or built new from 1988 bond program through 1999)

– Benson $12,799,000

– North $10,602,000

– South $25,540,000 ($7.2 million addition)

Group 2 Total: $97,109,000

Group 3 Elementary Schools (major renovations or new construction from 1999 bond/bond continuation program)

– Beals $382,000

– Belvedere $916,000

– Castelar $1,198,000

– Chandler View $878,000

– Druid Hill $450,000

– Fontenelle $365,000

– Gateway $0

– Gomez Heritage $454,000

– Harrison $1,555,000

– Jackson $2,330,000

– Jefferson $392,000

– Kennedy $529,000

– Liberty $159,000

– Miller Park $1,356,000

– Mount View $372,000

– Rose Hill $1,949,000

– Saddlebrook $412,000

– Saratoga $398,000

– Sherman $633,000

– Springville $2,047,000

– Standing Bear $387,000

– Wakonda $525,000

– Walnut Hill $199,000

– Washington $1,693,000

Group 3 Middle Schools (major renovations or new construction from 1999 bond/bond continuation program)

– Buffett $7,352,000 ($6.8 million addition)

– Davis $0

– King Science $753,000

– Marrs $446,000

– McMillan $759,000

Group 3 Total: $28,889,000

Overall total: $570,629,000

Source: Omaha Public Schools

Contact the writer: Erin Duffy    |   402-444-1210

Erin covers education, primarily Omaha Public Schools.

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