Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Links to Windham School Construction

Links to Windham High's Proposed Renovation Project
See Windham High's Over Priced Under Planned Project
Municipal Fiscal Indicators

N.E. Assoc. of Schools & Colleges, Windham High 2004 Evaluation

Windham High Strategic School Profile:2012-2013

Windham Student Expenditure 2009-10

Wingham Revenue Sources 2009-10

19th annual school construction costs

Windham High School Renovation Plan

Windham Renovation, Supporting Documents

OLR Research Report - State reimbursements for education construction:

Condition Ct Schools. 2013 report

Self Examination: Condition  of Windham Schools

Wyoming spends 90 million in 6 months

Can Existing Schools Get High Performance

Condition of American Schools

Renovate or Replace. Penn School Bd Asssociation

CHPS Schools

Condition American Schools. 1999

Renovating/Reusing School Facilities

Green School Links

Renovate or Replace

Windham High's UnderPlanned, Overpriced Project


Board Proposes "Buckingham Palace Like" Central Office

I am not an accountant, mathematician or an engineer nor am I an educator, electrician or architect, but It doesn't take an "Einstein" to realize  Windham School's planning committee appears to have made biased,emotional decisions working toward a solution  mapping  the future of Windham High. Biases can distract reasoning and can lead to ignoring evidence that contradicts a perceived notion. It can also lead to weighing one piece of information to heavily

The planning committee intent is to renovate, as new, an over sized high school shared by 600 high school and 200 preschool students at an unrealistic  cost of $112,000 per student. To "eat up space" they propose relocating central offices to the high school costing  $6 million . The Board offers up a few "weak" alternatives but refuses to address the option of closing the high school  or building a new facility. The Board  has chosen  renovating the school over building new because state grants available favor renovation over building new. In the end both options are nearly equal as Windham's plan does not qualify for the entire renovation reimbursement because the planning committee,s plan does not satisfy the state's minimum space standards Windham taxpayer will lose 28% of the potential state disbursement to renovate Windham High.

The Board misses the mark when defining the the ultimate problem to be solved. If the problem is not defined accurately the ultimate decision will be incorrect.
Winham planners fixate on the upcoming accreditation and physical conditions of Windham High but does not address the school's academic performance that have plagued the school. While accreditation and school conditions are a problem there are more serious long term issues needing resolution:  
  • Sustainability of a successful program
  • School culture and identity the
  • Flight of the middle class  
  • Achievement gap 
  • Accreditation
  • Poverty 
  • School climate 
  • School Leadership; Windham Schools have gone throigh 6 superintendents and a state takeover in 13 years)
  • Meddling politicians 
  • Common Core Standards
  • Technology Upgrades 
Steps in the decision making process:http://smallbusiness.chron.com/steps-decisionmaking-process-manager-10601.html

While a new high school could be built (600 students)  for an estimated $57 million the BOE favors a $90 million renovation plan. The Board claims if the present school was replaced students would lose one of the current "assembly areas" because of State space regulations. Would the Board opt to spend an estimated $33 million to save one assembly area?

It's  obvious that the "new"  Board of Education  suffers a hangover from the Folan Board's reign. It's always the same; throw money at the problem, if it doesn't work throw more. While the experts agree that a new or renovated schools yields some positive results, those result are hardly measurable.
"Having schools that don't leak, that are adequately heated and cooled and that don't have mold are critical. But,once you have an acceptable design, there's no research that says ... the quality of the education improves as the cost of the facilities increase."
          Ray DeBruhl,  professor of construction management at North Carolina State University

 Comparing State, New England and National school building costs Windham's proposal is abnormally expensive, especially when one realizes that renovating,"as new" usually is half the cost of building new. Decision makers appear to have no regard or knowledge of Windham economics. Windham is not a Lexus type town, Windham is a WRTD town. (that's the bus company) 

The BOE would like people to believe that only Windham Schools are in need of modernizing. In fact, most school districts share the same problems.According to the last comprehensive in-depth study of school buildings, U.S. Department of Education National Center of Education Statistics, in 1999 claimed three out of four school buildings in the U.S.were considered in need of "repairs, renovations or modernization in order to reach good condition." Ten years later, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2009 Report Card for American Infrastructure gives schools a D, noting that "Despite increasing federal mandates on school performance, school facilities in the United States are primarily a local responsibility and there is ample evidence that local communities, like Windham, are struggling to meet this responsibility."

According School Planning and Management's 19th Annual School Construction Costs (2013), a school construction respected journal,  Windham's proposed high school renovation would be a most expensive project.

Keep in mind the statistics presented below are "medium" costs meaning there are as many schools) below as there are above. The region and national statistics include both rehabilitation and "build as new." Windham cost are based "as renovations." 

Building costs in New England region are the  the highest in the U.S.because of  land prices, land conditions and labor costs 

High School Building Statistics (Local, Regional, National)
  • Proposed Windham Renovations
    -$404.00 cost/sq. ft.
    -$$112,000 cost per student
    -185 sq.ft. (State required) high school student/116 sq.ft. pre school student 
    -800 students (600 h.s/200 preschool (Proposed number/students)
    -Bld Size: 222,518 sq, ft.
    -Bld. Cost: $90,000.000

New England Mediums 
-385 cost/sq ft
-$74,712 cost/per student
-187 sq ft/student (State minimum sq,ft)
-1131 students
-Bld Size 213,544 sq.ft
-Bld Cost $83,700,000
  • National Mediums
-$249.47 cost/sq ft-$47,500 cost/ student-174.2 sq ft/student (State minimum sq,ft)-992 students-Bld Size 162,500 sq.ft.-Bld Cost $45,233
  • Low Quartile
-$192.31 cost/sq ft
-$33,333 cost/student
-150.9 sq ft/student (State minimum sq,ft)
-565 students,
-Bld size 118,500 sq.ft.
-Bld cost$24,000,000 cost
  •  High Quartil
-$385.42 cost/sq ft
-$65,597 cost/student
-214 sq ft/student (State minimum sq,ft)
-1,500 students
-Bld size 250,000 sq.ft.
-Bld cost $75,000,000
School Planning and Management's 19th annual school construction costs for 2013file:///C:/Users/Staples/Downloads/AnnualSchoolConstructionReport2014.pdf

Part Two
 (19 Questions)posed by the Windham Board of Education in red. answers in lower case. Comments in Bold http:

Windham High School has had no major renovations since its construction in 1970. The facility does not support 21st century teaching methods and is in violation of numerous codes. If the facility is not renovated, the high school may be at risk for losing its accreditation, making it more difficult for Windham students to get into college or find a job.  Additionally, students will continue to choose other regional high schools for their educational needs, costing Windham taxpayers over $1 million annually.
Columbia Schools sent students to Windham High for over eighty years. In 2012 they began weening students away to other high schools in the region that offer a superior education opportunity. They didn't pull out  because of code violations or the lack of water-less urinals in the boy's room. Columbia pulled out because of superior educational opportunities elsewhere.
The New England Association of Schools and College’s (NEASC) is the oldest accreditation agency in the United States. Being accredited means that a school adheres to a set of educational standards. These standards include academic excellence, good curriculum and facilities that meet the educational needs of students.

During the winter of 2015, NEASC will visit and rate Windham High School, including its facilities.  The current condition of the building will put its accreditation at risk. Adding to this issue is that 10 years ago NEASC reported that Windham High School facilities needed upgrading. Windham has not yet addressed any of their concerns.

The 2004 New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges Windham High facilities report commends the school for upgrades to the science labs to, "state of the art" and the maintenance staff for keeping the high school "looking like new."

They recommend that the school upgrades:
  • New windows throughout building
  • Replace/Repair heating and ventilation distributions systems
  • New locker rooms
  • Safety upgrades to industrial arts shops
  • Purchase new equipment related to technology and train personal for proper and effective use.
Facility recommendation starting on pg 48
There is no expiration date for accreditation. The only way our accreditation would “expire” is if we refused to participate in the accreditation process. WHS is participating in the process and will have NEASC visit December of 2015. A that point the school’s accreditation could be put on probation but would not expire. Loss of accreditation is never an immediate thing.
Yes, all diplomas are recognized as coming from an accredited high school if the student graduated at a time the high school was accredited.
Connecticut’s State Department of Education defines “renovate as new” as a school building project to completely refurbish an existing building, which results in the renovated facility taking on a useful life to that of a new facility. The benefit of a project being classified as “renovate as new” is that many of the costs considered ineligible for reimbursement in an “alteration” may be considered eligible for reimbursement in a “renovate as new” project.
Windham will receive a higher reimbursement rate from the state if the Board of Ed offices are moved to the high school. A cost comparison of renovating the building with the Board of Education offices versus renovating it without the Board of Ed offices shows that renovation costs would be nearly $11 million more expensive for the town of Windham if we did not move the Board of Education offices to the high school.
The Board of Education offices are located in the Kramer Building on Prospect Street in Willimantic. The Early Childhood Program is also located in this building. The Kramer building is energy inefficient, costly to maintain and lacks the safety and security measures that all students and staff should be assured.

According to the Board of Education the town has hit the jackpot adding in the district's central office to the high school's renovation proposal. Instead of costing $101 million the project will only cost, a "bargain," $90 million.
In its endeavor to fill up the high school the BOE proposes to  drop in a 15,000 s.f.office space for approx. 25 administrators costing $6 million dollars. It's apparent where the administration is concerned, students come second; 600 sq. ft per administrator at a cost of $240,000 each. 
The same  proposal allocates 185/ s.f. per student at an inordinate cost of  $112,000 per pupil. The state will only reimburse the town 40% for administrative offices while town taxpayer pay the rest. 
No. It is true that some of your state taxes will help pay for this project but the funding is coming from the tax pool across the state. If Windham isn’t using state funds to invest in the future of their children, another town will be.

Call it a tax pool, call it a pot of gold. call it whatever, the State contributes various amounts for school construction depending on the wealth of the town. According to a State formula rich towns,such as Greenwich receive 20% to renovate an existing schoo, Windham, being poor receives 80%.
2014 town percentage allocation: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2636&q=320552

Additionally  State  and to a lesser extent Federal taxpayer subsidize the day to day operations of school districts depending on their wealth. 
While the average town taxpayer in Connecticut (2009-10) pays 62.3% of their district's daily bills Windham taxpayers contribute 28.2%. The State and Federal governments pay 35.4% of an average town's school expenditures while they pay 68.2% of Windham's coats.  Tuition income makes up the remainder.
To send 600 high school students to other regional high schools, Windham would pay approximately $8 million annually. This does not include the cost of special education. As the town will only be responsible for approximately $25 million project costs to renovate the high school as new, within nearly three years’ time, the town would have paid the amount in tuition to other schools that was needed to renovate Windham High School.

Before adding special education and transportation costs, tuitioning Windham student to regional high schools would save the district approximately $400.000 yearly. Unfortunately the BOE refuses to address this option and if the Board continues to make decision with their "blinders" on, we will never know  the amount the district could potentially save.

What is known, if the high school option is eliminated, there would be savings of a $25 million bond package,  reduction of central office and high school managers,  utility costs and upkeep savings of a 222,500/ s.f. building. 
The Board has explored this option and it is not a financially viable one for many reasons.

We get more State money by renovating: Windham currently receives 69.29% reimbursement for New School construction, and 79.29% reimbursement for “renovating as new”. We also save more money by renovating: The cost for renovating like new is approximately $225/s.f.; building new is approximately $300/s.f.

Added to this would be the costs not carried with the projected renovation project: full demolition of the current building; a higher level of environmental, abatement, and site work costs; and building infrastructure costs.

Logistically there are many issues as well. If we built a new high school, we would need to build it for the projected population, and would lose many of the features we currently have. For example, with the current State space standards for school size based upon population, there is only enough space allowed for two assembly areas (gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, etc.). That means students would lose one of their current assembly areas and be left with a  Gymatorium or Cafetorium.

The existing school is 222,518 s.f. and was built to accommodate around 1,200 students.  To build to the full reimbursable amount allowed by the State space standards, a new high school to serve 600 students would be 90,000 s.f.

Besides the spinning, those that put this Q&A format together  are unfamiliar with  state school construction costs. They claim that the high school can be renovated "as new" for $225.00/s.f. That's $50 million. So why $90 million to complete this project? Because, in real life, it will cost $404.00/s.f. to renovate the school.  The Ct. Dept. of Administration Services reports (2013)  renovation costs of $280.00/ s.f. to renovate an average  state high school and $500.00 to build new. Windham's renovation is out of line with state costs by $124.00/s.f.

Further,  those that put this Q&A together claim a new high school would require 90,000/s.f. . Actually according to State space standards the high school must be 111,000/s.f. (600 students X 185/s.f./ student)

A new high school mirroring Barrows School but meeting state specifications (111.000/s.f.) could be built on the current high school location or elsewhere for approximately $56 million. Barrows was built for $43 million.
Our current high school facility does not support 21st century teaching methods or the curriculum of the STEM or Humanities academies. Given the choice of a public school in town, that can adequately meet the needs of all students, the Board is confident more families will elect to send their students to Windham High and we could increase enrollment.
Additionally, judging by the overwhelming interest in the Charles H. Barrows Academy we can assume that there is great attraction to a state of the art educational facility. Renovating as new would give us a building that is comparable to Barrows.

 I believe the writer(s) are referring to the $1 million costs Windham taxpayers must absorb with the leaving of out of town tuition students and the loss of grant money associated with local student going on to out of town schools. With depopulation of the high school there are certain fixed cost that cannot be averted such as utilities and maintenance.

It has taken over 2 decades to turn a once regionally respected high school into a poor performing school. Turn around will be slow if at all. We have seen hundreds of students leave the district over the past years. Will a $90 million renovation  fix the problem?A shinny new school will only work if accompanied by academic excellence.

There are several reasons why there is a cost difference. Some of the largest contributors to the cost difference are the school size, school features and programs, and existing conditions in the building. Windham High School is 222,518 square feet.  Barrows is 83,700 square feet. The high school has a pool, 2 gymnasiums, auditorium, etc… Barrows does not have all of those spaces. Barrows was able to create code and energy compliant conditions from scratch, whereas we will have to renovate existing conditions within the high school. Barrows did not have to deal with existing hazardous materials (PCBs, asbestos pipe insulation & mastic, etc.). The high school does. The high school has a distinctly different program(s) than a K-8 school. On top off that, the renovation of the high school and the construction of Barrows will be years apart. It's difficult to compare the cost of a bid and construct project from a few years back with one that will not happen for another few years.

Barrows was designed and built to house 609 students at a cost of $509.00/s.f. 
(State average $500.00/s.f.) or $$70.608. per student. The high school proposed renovation for 800 students carries a price tag of $90 million, $405.00 s.f. (State av $280.00/s.f.) or $112,000/student.
(New England medium cost $75,000/student)

The BOE points out that there are extra ordinary expenses involved in renovating the high school due to various environmental exposures and demolition costs but neglects to address the savings of renovation over building new:
  • Land costs 
  • Soft Costs (legal, architectural. land planning
  • Site prepeations
  • Utility hookup
  • Roads, parking lots. sidewalks and sports fields
A new high school mirroring Barrows School but larger (111.000/s.f.) could be built on the current high school location or elsewhere for approximately $56 million. 
If the town approves the high school renovation at referendum in November of 2014, construction would begin Summer 2016 and be completed in the summer of 2019.
Students would still be able to attend school at Windham High School while construction is ongoing. Students would be moved to one side of the building while construction is taking place on the opposite side.
Project costs are paid through state and town tax dollars. Should the community approve these projects at referendum, the state of Connecticut will pay approximately 80% of eligible project expenses. Postponing renovation could lead to more costly emergency repair work and create unsafe conditions for students and teachers. If we do not renovate now, the cost of renovating the building will continue to increase each year due to inflation.

While the State of Connecticut will pay slightly less then  80% this year, (less then 79% in 2015). Windham's renovation plan qualifies for a maximum disbursement of 72,2%as the BOE's plan is faulty, The Board  proposal is to renovate,as new 100% of the existing building but is only able to populate 60% of Windham High.
Your taxes will be most affected in the year 2019. During this year, if you own a home worth $200,000 your taxes will increase by approximately $33.30 a month, the equivalent of 2 pizzas. If your home is worth $100,000 the monthly increase will be $16.60. In the years leading up to and after 2019, taxes will be less.

There goes the Pizza business in town.
By not addressing the building problems, our community will be affected in many ways. Community support of Windham’s schools indirectly helps to educate our children who will live and work in our community. Schools fill a number of service roles in the community; shelters, voting stations, and facilities for sporting events are just a few. Our community is better off when individuals take part in deciding the direction of one of our most valuable community assets. Up to date quality school buildings attract qualified teachers and provide students with tools they need to succeed in today’s competitive world. These qualities in our schools, make Windham an attractive place to live, work and raise a family; directly affecting the overall value of your property.
1.    Go to referendum. The Board of Education anticipates bringing this issue to vote at a town referendum in November 2014.
2.    Vote to pass the “renovate as new” project.
3.    File the application form and educational specifications for our “renovate as new” project with the State.These are the foundation of the project. Architectural plans, conceptual drawings, models, etc. come later.
4.    From the time the project is filed it takes approximately a year to go through the approval/budget process. During this time the town will hire an architect and construction firm.
Members of the community are encouraged to attend Board of Education School Planning and Design subcommittee meetings, which are open to the public. The Board of Education will hold periodic informational meetings and tours of Windham High School over the next several months. Notice of these events will be published in local newspapers and announced during Board of Education meetings. These meetings are broadcast on local public access television. www.windham.k12.ct.us/whsproject will post updates and information on the project.

Part Three

"If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it, Albert Einstein 
 The Windham School Board hasn't been  sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulate why a $90 million high school renovation project is important . Without  rigorous. correct problem solving and definition the board of education misses opportunities, waste resources, and end up pursuing innovation initiatives that aren't aligned with their strategic goals..We've seen many times  a project go down one path only to realize in hindsight that it should have gone down another? How many times have you seen an innovation program deliver a seemingly breakthrough result only to find that it can’t be implemented or it addresses the wrong problem? Many organizations need to become better at asking the right questions so that they tackle the right problems. Paraphrased From

Listed below are several options the BOE has not addressed.The first four would be eligible for full state reimbursement. Number two, would probably need legislative approval and be very expensive but.would give back to Windham for years to come: 

  1. Renovate the high school modestly and turn it into a magnet school mirroring Barrows' STEM theme and adding a second theme such as agricultural/environmental or a Sports/Medical Science themed Academy, The advantage of a magnet school is the extra State compensation,($3,000 for each home district pupil & $7,000 for each out of town pupil). An additional advantage; the school population could jump to an estimated 900-1200 high school students as the State allows 40%, of those attending, may come from sending districts. The downside; The State has a moratorium on magnet schools presently. This option would have to wait for Connecticut's economy to improve or be approved by a special act of the State Legislature.
  2. Build a new high school at the present High St, site for 600 students. (Estimate cost $57 million plus inflation) Because of the projected size, the State would not reimburse for the 'bells & whistles" that the present high school enjoys. (no swimming pool, probably a gymnasium/auditorium combination) Selectively demolish the present school leaving the auditorium, swimming pool, gyms plus ancillary needed space, forming a campus to be shared by the High School, Windham Rec Dept.and Community Center.
  3. Join the Middle School with a renovated High School. This would solve the high school under population problem and bring the per student cost in line with State and New England medium costs. Relocate Sweeney and Natchaug Schools to the Middle School. (This option would save an addition to Sweeney School projected to cost $19,180,000) Relocate preschool and Central offices to Sweeney.
  4. Build new 600 student high school at an alternative location opening up the present school location for future ECSU expansion.
  5. Dissolve Windham High, disperse students to surrounding high schools.The Board doesn't want to consider this. Why? In the decision making process all options, even those considered insignificant should be scrutinized. It could be enlightening. Should Windham's students not be given the chance to receive a better education elsewhere rather then waiting years for a new school? If a new school is built or the high school is renovated what is the sustainability factor? Presently Windham High shares the bottom rung on the Connection education ladder, will a $90 million dollar renovation move the school to the middle rungs? If so should we spend $180 million and move up to the top rung? Unfortunately there is little proof, other then teacher and student absenteeism improvements building or renovating new improves learning.


    Tuesday, July 22, 2014

    East Hartford Finicial Servies Company Considering Moving Home Office to Willimantic

    Former Willimantic Trust Building

    While it maybe early in the process an East Hartford company is looking at various Willimantic commercial properties to relocate their home offices to downtown Willimantic from Founders Plaza in East Hartford.

    Presently 1st Alliance Lending LLC is working with the Town of Vernon on a $120 million redevelopment proposal to relocate its East Hartford offices to the Rockville section of Vernon. While Vernon economic director, Shawn Gately, claims the project is moving ahead there are problems centered around the four key property owners and their willingness to sell the property needed  to bring this project together.

    Meanwhile Willimantic has evolved into a backup location in case the Rockville proposal fails to materialize.

    1st Alliance's Rockville proposal  envisions a system of buildings with office space over street-level shops and restaurants The building (s) itself would cover 350,000 square feet, 200,000 of which would be office space on the second and third floors and 150,000 square ft of retail space below.  Two parking garages with 1,300 to 1,500 parking spaces are planned for the Rockville parcel, 80% of which would be underground. The developer expects to bring 200 jobs to the Rockville site in 2016 growing to 2000 workers by 2020.

    1st Alliance representatives have made several visits to downtown Willimantic looking at potential acquisitions. Building being considered include:
    • Former Willimantic Trust Co. presently owned bu ECSU Foundaion
    • Potpourri/Signs Plus adjacent the footbridge
    • Hurley Building
    • Former Agway adjacent Frog Bridge
    • Former Willimantic & Coal  on Church St
    • Former Jillson Cinemas 

    Jillson  Cinemas

    Potpourri/Signs Plus
    Hurley Building

    Journal Inquirer
    Aug 2, 2013
    Hartford Courant
    Aug 2, 2013
    Hartford Courant storyNov 1, 2013

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    Do you remember this lady?

    Laura Knott Twine, the founder, inspiration and first director Windham's Textile museum has gone on to direct the Hartford Preservation Alliance and is currently the project director responsible for converting the former  Tallcot Brother's Mill, in Vernon, into an 84 unit apartment complex.

    Link Courtesy Bill Meehan

    Laura Knott  Twine (right) leads the Hooker Day Parade with Hartford's Mayor Padro Segara

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    More Lay Offs at Windham Hospital?

    Hartford Healthcare announced Monday it will trim its workforce by 350 positions, amid pressures to lower costs and deal with declining reimbursements from government payers.

    Read More

    CL&P TO Cut Union Workers for Outside Contract Workers

    Berlin, Conn. >> The union representing repair crews at Connecticut Light & Power says the company has told them it plans to make more liberal use of contract workers, effective immediately.

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    HUFFINGTON POST Introduces Racism into Windham School's Problems

    The Huffington Post featured Windham Schools in an article May 25th. It's bothersome that the author, Michael Melia, screwed up the chronological details of budget votes but he blew my soxs off when he introduced racism into Windham's education problems with a quote from Superintendent Annie Ortiz