JCPS facing 'major' facility needs, report states - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS facing 'major' facility needs, report states

Posted: Updated: Mar 22, 2016 07:47 PM
JCPS chief operations officer Mike Raisor presents the facilities assessment to the school board on March 22, 2016 (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) JCPS chief operations officer Mike Raisor presents the facilities assessment to the school board on March 22, 2016 (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)
JCPS Comprehensive Infrastructure Assessment JCPS Comprehensive Infrastructure Assessment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools has a high percentage of aging buildings and a volume of critical repairs that has led to triage maintenance that is not sustainable, according to a comprehensive infrastructure assessment shared with the school board on Tuesday.

The 183-page report, prepared by JCPS chief operations officer Michael Raisor, provides a snapshot of each of the district's 155 school buildings, outlining strengths and weaknesses, as well as capacity.

"Our buildings are safe, secure and critical issues are given first priority and addressed immediately," Raisor said. "But at the same time, we have major needs within this district." 

No recommendations will be made to the school board until June. Over the next few months, Raisor encouraged board members to go over the report to get a better understanding of the district's needs.

Raisor and his staff spent a year conducting the comprehensive evaluation of each JCPS facility and the supporting infrastructure. He said the district also looked at data and plans from two similar districts -- Austin, Texas and Balitmore County, Md. -- in coming up with this report.

“We have done a really great job at balancing all of our capital projects and our staff has done a phenomenal job maintaining the buildings that we have,” Raisor said.

According to his most recent analysis, Raisor says the average age of the district’s buildings is approaching 60 years old.

He identified 20 "Key Areas of Focus" in developing the plan, adding that "optimal capacity" is the ideal exact number of students in a school. He outlined what the optimal capacity is at each both the elementary and secondary level.

As WDRB reported last month, the district has more than $880 million worth of facility needs scattered across the county.

Those needs – which include the replacement of dozens of old roofs and end-of-life heating and cooling systems at more than 40 schools – are in addition to a shifting student population that has left some of the district’s schools over capacity, while others sit half empty.

JCPS has been dealing with aging facilities and a shifting student population for at least a decade, but with a capital improvement budget of roughly $35 million annually, it has been difficult to keep up with $886 million in needs identified in the district’s facility plan that was submitted to the state in 2014.

At times, it has led to a debate among board members about whether they should increase taxes to pay for more renovations and construction projects and/or consolidate schools and problems to save space.

One of the district’s main focuses in the past two years has been dealing with crowding issues in eastern Jefferson County.

Two of the district’s largest elementary clusters were expected to be over capacity by 2018, so the board decided to convert Alex Kennedy Metro Mi

ddle in Jeffersontown back into an elementary school at the start of the 2015-16 year and build a new school in Norton Commons, which opens this August.

You can read the FULL PDF REPORT here.

Three years ago, officials told the board 46 schools would need a “recommended replacement” of their HVAC systems by 2020. Since then, only a handful has been replaced, Raisor said.

Replacing an old HVAC system can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 million. Case in point: JCPS has spent more than $40 million in the past two years on renovating the HVAC systems at Fern Creek High and Southern High.

“You're ripping the guts out of the building and putting them back in brand new,” Raisor said. “It's a very invasive type of exercise to do."

When looking at the district as a whole, Raisor says he is open to exploring all options. That could include closing some schools and building new – instead of renovating.

“Old building utility costs and maintenance are so much more than new modern buildings are,” Raisor said. “That's kind of the X-factor, you have to determine what you are now spending on those things and what you would be spending in the future.”

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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