Four Schools Proposed for Renovation, Long-Term Planning Continues

Four elementary schools may receive renovations next year as the district continues to study how it can improve facilities to meet the changing learning needs of students.

Addressing Immediate Elementary Schools Needs

At a special workshop on Sunday, Jan. 22, WDMCS Board of Education members asked the district administration and Shive-Hattery architects to develop possible timelines to renovate Clive Learning Academy, Crestview School of Inquiry, Western Hills Elementary, and Westridge Elementary.

Through its six-month facility study, Shive-Hattery architects identified these four schools as needing immediate changes to meet the learning needs of students.

Some district buildings were designed decades ago primarily for “core instruction,” which is instruction with all students in a general education setting. Today, more students receive “core-plus” instruction, such as English language or extended learning instruction. In some buildings, space is not designed for this shift, and teachers are meeting with students in hallways or former storage areas.

“I am worried about our elementary schools and their capacities right now, and it is not something we can wait on,” said School Board member Jill Caton Johnson, Ph.D.

A proposal for these elementary schools will be presented to the School Board at an upcoming meeting.

A Visionary Look

The School Board members determined they will also continue its more comprehensive facility study to determine a long-term facilities plan.

This includes reviewing the various space and building configuration options previously presented by Shive-Hattery.

“We need a plan and vision,” said School Board Vice President Melinda Dunnwald. “We need to have conversations with the city, the Chamber of Commerce, and we need to get the right stakeholders involved to do this right to save taxpayers dollars and be visionaries.”

Board members indicated they would like to hold future special facilities-focused workshops, with dates to be set at a later time.

Facilities & Funding

During the meeting, West Des Moines Community Schools Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek provided an overview of construction funding available compared to the estimated cost for three facilities plan proposals previously presented by Shive-Hattery.

Based on several assumptions, he estimates the money the district currently receives through sales taxes and the Physical Plan & Equipment Levy (PPEL) is insufficient to pay for Option 1 and Option 3 as presented. He said the district would have enough funds for Option 2, but may still need to issue bonds to accommodate cash flow. He noted that this only takes into account construction-related costs and does not take into account ongoing operational costs.

For background information on this plan, please visit www.wdmcs.org/category/facilities.