FAQs

Referendum Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How is an $8.3M referendum able to result in a zero tax increase?
The School Board has been fiscally responsible by restructuring the 2004 referendum debt for early repayment avoiding more than $300,000 in interest costs, completing more than $2 million in capital improvements since 2010 via the district’s annual operating budget, and building the district’s fund balance to avoid short–term borrowing. With the early retirement of debt, the School Board has decided to go to referendum at this time to provide the types of spaces required for changing teaching and learning needs and address pressing long-term capital needs to proactively position the district for a stable financial future.

2.  What is included in the cost of $8.3M?

  • Reconfigure spaces to support hands-on learning and student collaboration
  • Create more flexible classroom configurations with furnishings to support varied curriculum, programming, and instruction
  • Upgrade school safety features and security systems
  • Be designed to accommodate enrollment fluctuation
  • Enlarge windows to increase natural lighting
  • Update technology, lighting and electrical infrastructure and improve efficiency
    Remove asbestos
  • Improve building accessibility (Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • Repair/Replace roof sections, classroom heating equipment, ceiling tiles, windows, doors and flooring that have significantly exceeded their expected lifespan

3.  How does this plan address safety and security?
This plan creates a fully accessible (ADA) building with improved safety and security features. Additional doors will allow for portions of the building to be separately secured as well as eliminating unnecessary exterior entrance points within the older portions of the building. 

4.  Why are adaptable and flexible learning spaces so important today?
To help students thrive in today's world they need certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Providing the optimum combination of adaptable and flexible spaces to educate students is foremost in making sure teaching and learning is delivered to maximize student potential.

With the changes in teaching and learning, it has become more challenging for standard classrooms to meet current educational needs. For example, greater technology is needed to prepare students for careers of the future; with technology comes a greater need for adequate power and storage. Classroom spaces need to become more adaptable for students of younger ages who are now working with the same technology and equipment that middle school students are using. Having the proper seating and table height for all students is imperative to the learning environment. The proposed plan modernizes and expands our technology education environment, in addition to a variety of other educational areas, to meet our students’ needs.

5.  Why aren’t we remodeling the 1890’s and 1950’s wing?
Through study and discussions with the Facilities Advisory Committee and most recently the Community Survey, it became clear that the value of the 1950s and 1890s wing is marginal. The 1890s building is actually the third Swallow School building after the first two perished by fire. It does not stand as it was built with walls and bathrooms added, as well as a basement classroom and mechanical spaces. Those elements that do remain are in poor condition and will require significant costs to restore and repair and will still result in a functionally-limited educational space, with ongoing future maintenance costs due to the age of the wing and materials used in their construction.

That significant remodeling cost is estimated to be at least $1.6 million and includes foundation repair and waterproofing, asbestos abatement, updates to sanitary piping and plumbing fixtures to create ADA accessible bathrooms, replacement of classroom heating systems, and installing an elevator to allow ADA access to the wing of the building.

Replacing this wing will allow for creation of spaces that efficiently meet those needs. The architecture of the replacement wing as well as remodeled spaces will offer the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the proud history of Swallow School.


6.  Why go to referendum now?
The School Board, with input from the community, has decided to pursue the project now with several structural systems coming to the end of their life span, the asbestos abatement that is pending, and the need to update learning spaces, the facility is in need of timely repairs. It is not possible to complete all necessary capital projects through the annual budget and still maintain the programs, services, and staffing that has come to be expected.

Completion of the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan through a referendum will contribute to the district’s future financial stability to ensure we are able to provide high quality programming and effective class sizes in line with community values and expectations. Deferment of the project will only increase costs due to lingering maintenance items, increasing interest rates, and increases in construction costs.

7.  What was the planning process?
In 2013, 2016, and most recently in January 2018, the School Board held a series of Community Conversations engaging students, parents, staff, and residents. These Conversations shaped a shared vision for curriculum, programming, services, and spaces to meet the community’s needs.

This past fall the School Board also formed a Facility Advisory Committee (FAC), made up of a cross-section of parents and community members to take this shared vision and couple it with known maintenance needs to identify a recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan for the district. While the FAC has studied options and made various recommendations, the School Board has been committed to finalizing a plan that reflects the priorities of district taxpayers. The Community Survey you received in early May was an opportunity for taxpayers to provide feedback on the FAC’s recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan. The feedback led the district to refine the scope of the project. In July, the Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the resolution that will be on the ballot on November 6.

8.  What happens if the referendum isn’t approved?
In the event that the residents of the district decide not to approve this referendum, the district will need to re-assess the areas of most need. Any changes to the learning environments will need to be addressed when/if funding changes.

Long-Range Master Planning Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is a Long-Range Master Facilities Plan and why does Swallow need one? 

A Long-Range Master Facilities Plan is developed to help guide decisions regarding facilities investments over a period of time. It incorporates both capital improvements (maintenance) needs as well as facility improvements needed to support teaching and learning. The plan aids in forecasting of future budget needs to maintain high quality learning environments aligned to the district’s Strategic Plan and community values.


2.  What process has been used to arrive at a recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan for community input?

In 2013, 2016 and most recently in January 2018 the School Board held a series of Community Conversations engaging students, parents, staff, and residents. These Conversations shaped a shared vision for curriculum, programming, services, and spaces to meet the community’s needs.

This past fall the School Board also formed a Facility Advisory Committee (FAC), made up of a cross-section of parents and community members to take this shared vision and couple it with known maintenance needs to identify a recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan for the district. While the FAC has studied options and made various recommendations, the School Board is committed to finalizing a plan that reflects the priorities of district taxpayers. The Community Survey you are receiving in early May is a chance for taxpayers to provide feedback on the FAC’s recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan.


3.  What needs are driving the recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan?

There are three main drivers for the recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan: improved teaching and learning spaces to support programmatic offerings, enhanced community spaces that are ADA accessible, and addressing known maintenance needs.

As a result of the Community Conversations series and our regular Curriculum and Programmatic Review process, we continue our responsiveness to changing societal needs and workforce demands by updating offered programming as well as instructional delivery methodologies. Beginning next year, additional programming in science, technology, and engineering will begin in grades 4K-5th while continuing to provide firm foundations in all core areas, Art, Music, Physical Education/Health, Guidance, and Spanish.

At Swallow we support students for 10 formative years of their educational experience--from 4K all the way through 8th grade. Students vary greatly in size and ability over their years here while having common staff and learning spaces throughout the building. The Long-Range Master Facilities Plan provides flexible furnishings and adaptable spaces that are needed to support 4K reading instruction one moment while easily resetting to meet the demands of 8th graders in an Engineering course the next, along with upgrades to our technology infrastructure and increased electrical demands.

The Swallow community uses the building and grounds on a regular basis. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, homeowners associations, and youth athletic programs all vie for classrooms and the few large-group meeting spaces in the building which often means they arrive and wish to set up in a classroom while the school day is finishing up. Due to building configuration and the scant spaces which are not used during the school day, this can present issues with maintaining confidentiality of student data and makes it inconvenient for teachers to prepare for the next day’s classes. The 1950s and 1890s portion of the building, along with most bathrooms in the building are not ADA accessible.

The District has proactively created and used a Capital Improvement Maintenance Project list for the past ten years and accomplished several significant projects using the district’s annual operating budget to do so. Maintaining the community’s investment remains a top priority of the district and the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan provides for continued attention to creating a safe learning environment, attending to capital projects such as roof, window, flooring, and heating/ventilation replacement cycles, and lighting and fixture replacement to increase building efficiency.


4.  What will the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan cost?

The overall Master Plan will cost $9.98 million based on currently known maintenance needs and improvements to the building and grounds.  

With an annual general fund operating budget of about $6.3 million, it is not possible to complete all necessary capital projects through the annual budget. Completion of the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan through other financial means will contribute to the district’s financial stability to ensure we are able to provide high quality programming and effective class sizes in line with community values and expectations.


5.  Is the 1890s building the original school building?

The Swallow School District began as School District #2 in the Warren Township on January 1, 1844 in a frame building across what is now County Road E at the Four Winds Farm. Due to two fires, the original building and a second one were replaced by a brick building in 1894. It is this third building which remains standing today, and is attached to the rest of the school building, functioning as a classroom for elementary Spanish.


6.  What are ways to fund a Long-Range Master Facilities Plan?

The School Board will not decide on the scope or potential phases of implementation for a Long-Range Master Facilities Plan until taxpayer feedback is received on the Community Survey. A portion of the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan is maintenance which can proactively be planned for through the maintenance budget. If the School Board does proceed with larger portions of the plan, there are four main ways to fund it:
     -Annual Operating Budget
     -Fund Balance (which the district uses to avoid short term borrowing due to the timing of receipt of state      payments)
     -Referendum
     -Charitable Donations

 

7.  Why does Swallow need a facilities investment with declining enrollment?

Other needs have been identified besides just overall building capacity. Although there has been gradual enrollment decline, our goal is still to maintain reasonable class sizes and progressive learning spaces to support next steps with curriculum and programming that are valued by the community. Today, more than ever, there is a greater need to personalize learning to support the varied needs of each child. This is in part accomplished by teaching methodologies but also in part with varied spaces that allow for collaboration, hands-on learning, and adaptive supports.

This Long-Range Master Facilities Plan accounts for current enrollment along with any future enrollment spikes.



8.  Does the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan address security needs?

The District has made significant improvements to building security in recent years including a mass notification system which is monitored 24 hours a day, a distress notification system, a secure front entry, cameras, and other electronic access control systems. The Long-Range Master Facilities Plan includes additional doors that allow portions of the building to be separately secured as well as eliminating unnecessary exterior entrance points within the older portions of the building.

Enhancements to each of these systems are anticipated in the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan and continued collaboration with law enforcement and security experts will inform safety planning and responses.


9.  How did this maintenance list come about? Why weren’t you taking care of these items over the past 20 years?

The District has proactively maintained the building and grounds. Since 2004, when our community last supported a referendum, the District has been able to address the following issues out of the annual operating budget including reconfigured and updated parking lots, updated heating and ventilation (HVAC) system, installation of a secure front entry, replaced portions of the school’s lighting, carpeting and furnishings, improved playground site drainage, added technology infrastructure and devices, updated fire, mass notification and telephone systems, converted a computer lab to our Discovery Lab, and eliminated the need for short-term borrowing by building up fund balance.

The vast majority of the maintenance list is based on capital replacements. Given the cost of these items, annual operating budgets do not allow for these kinds of expenditures on a regular basis and the district always balances these needs with our highest priority of maintaining high quality programming and effective class size.


10. Does this mean the district is laying the groundwork for a referendum?

The School Board and FAC have identified needs and a recommended Long-Range Master Facilities Plan to address them. However, the School Board is committed to finalizing a plan that reflects the priorities of our taxpayers. Please take 5-10 minutes to complete the Community Survey to provide your feedback by May 21, 2018.


11. Where can I get answers to my Long-Range Master Facilities Planning questions?

For more information on the Long-Range Master Facilities Planning process, please contact Melissa Thompson, Superintendent at 262-367-2000 x108, or by email at referendum@swallowschool.org.

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