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 taxpayers?

The recommended Master Plan will cost $9.98 million, which equates to $24 per $100,000 of home value. Preliminary tax impact estimates for a 20-year borrowing are based on a conservative interest rate of 4.25%. The tax impact estimates were provided by financial consultants from Robert W. Baird & Co.

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.  Why does the Long-Range Master Facilities Plan call for replacement of the oldest wing instead of remodeling it?

Through study and discussions with the FAC it became clear that the value of the 1950s and 1890s buildings were marginal. It will require significant cost to restore and repair both of these areas and will still result in a functionally limited educational space, with ongoing future maintenance costs due to the age of the buildings and materials used in their construction.

That significant remodeling cost is estimated to be $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 this wing of the building.


6.  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.

7.  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)
     -Charitable Donations


8.  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.

9.  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.

10.  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.

11. 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.

12. 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 thompson@swallowschool.org.

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