September 8, 2008

Renovations versus new school buildings

I don't have the details, but I understand that the last time the Board of Education looked into the option of renovating older schools instead of replacing them was back in 1999, when The New England School Development Council did a study of the issue.
To compare figures now, school officials are assuming those renovation costs have risen 7 percent annually since the study was done.
Comparing the cost of renovating the four schools eyed for closure with the tab for building two new ones to replace them, the city's share of the overall project would be some $10 million less, if the state matched the 73.9 percent reimbursement it's offering on the new school project.
I haven't done all the math yet, but the city's probably looking at about $30 million of its money for the two new schools, which I assume means that renovations would take about$20 million of the city's cash.
On the other hand, new schools would cost about $150,00 a year less in energy costs -- a figure that would grow if energy prices continue to rise. That adds up, but it would take at least 50 years for the energy savings alone to make up for the higher initial cost.
The cost of doing either renovations or new buildings is still going up 7 percent or more annually so the year's delay so far has already hit taxpayers for millions of dollars in additional funding.
That's why there's a pressing need to make a decision which way to go. Doing nothing isn't really an option because if the old schools are going to keep being used, they must be overhauled.
Hopefully, there will be even more information available at tonight's meeting of the City Council and the school building committees, which takes place at 6:30 in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall. I will probably try to live blog some of it at least.
I hope, too, that public officials keep in mind that while negotiations and prices can be done in secret session, the bigger issues on this must be done in public. Don't try to hide what the public needs to know.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Anonymous said...

The question needs to be asked, does our current rate of population growth warrant the need for schools of this size? Can the size be scaled back?

Anonymous said...

The building of new schools also results in reduced maintenace costs, increased (fair) opportunities for the handicapped, a more balanced demographic mix of students and better compliance with racial makeup of schools, and increased continuity of student tenure in the school.
All are difficult to quantify, but all are beneficial.

Anonymous said...

Once an older school building is renovated to modern standards, it considered "like new". Mechanical and physical systems are equivalent to those in a new structure.
Therefore, maintenace costs would be about the same.

Also, with larger sized schools the drop out rate is higher, and academic achievement levels are lower. So how are "larger sized" new schools going to "enhance continuity". These issues have been "quantified" year after year by numerous education researchers from across the country.

Yes, you will get a mixed bag of students in larger schools, but do you wish optimize the chances for educational achievement, or simply
"house" the students.
By the way, education research has shown that disadvantaged students, perform better in smaller schools than larger schools.

Anonymous said...

The "mixed bag" refers to state requirements as to lumping too many minorities in one school.

Yes, many aspects will be improved to the point of being "like new", but many won't.

Why does business build new buildings?

How about handicapped access?

How about equal opportunity; i.e gym, cafeteria, playground etc. etc. etc.?

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

I have the dubious distinction of working briefly at New Britain High School. After experiencing that compared to the smaller schools I attended as a student in Bristol, the smaller schools are better. And there is plenty of well researched evidence to back it up. Mega schools are a dated approach to education when the trend has been for smaller classrooms and smaller schools.

Larger schools provide less one on one work for the handicapped because larger schools almost work like an assembly line.

A more balanced demographic makeup is important but in the era of No Child Left Behind schools that are ethnically/racially more homogenous ironically do better in qualification for funding. I'm not saying that that's right, I'm just saying that's what it is.

Drop out rates are higher. College acceptance rates are lower.
and Test scores are lower.

I don't get into the K-8 school issue too much but if I had a choice I'd renovate the smaller schools. It's the better option.

Anonymous said...

"a more balanced demographic mix of students and better compliance with racial makeup of schools"

September 8, 2008 11:49 AM:

You need to get out more.

Davis Drive and Shawn Drive on one side and the west end and Union Street on the other doesn't
qualify as "racially balanced enough"? You lost me completely (from supporting this) because of your dumb points.

Anonymous said...

September 8, 2008 11:49 AM:

Your's sound like the words of a naive and whiney public school teacher.

Anonymous said...

Steve great article on the cost of new V's old...Seems very odd that the tax payers of Bristol have not received anything in their mailboxes on why the city needs to build 2 new schools and close 4...Information is the key to success..Did we not learn anything from the mall purchase...Do I smell another petition drive from the GOP on the building of 2 new schools.....Something of this size and costing of 10 to 30 million of tax payers money deserves a vote of yes or no.