CIP Is Approved Unanimously by LSB
An updated Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) was approved by the Lakeland School Board (LSB) tonight (11.20.17) in a 5-0 vote at City Hall.
Link to the budget: http://lakelandk12.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/LSS-CIP-Budget.pdf .
The CIP includes $3 million to add eight classrooms and a cafeteria expansion to LES, $1 million to purchase an unknown piece of property for an additional school (elementary or intermediate) and $36.5 million for a high school wing, minus $3.5 million saved from building LMPS.
The BOC meets in week, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27, to vote on funding the CIP. At a regular BOC meeting Nov. 9, the BOC heard a report from Dr. Ted Horrell, Lakeland School System superintendent, about the estimated costs to build out a high school wing at LMPS (Lakeland Middle Preparatory School). Dr. Horrell had been asked six weeks earlier to project the costs for the high school. Link to Nov. 9 story: http://lakelandcurrents.com/boc-tonight-high-school-forecast-2020-vision-plans/
In a special meeting Nov. 16, the BOC made it clear the City has the funds to cover the CIP without a property tax increase or impacting City services. The high school wing could possibly be ready for students August 2020. Link to Nov. 16 story: http://lakelandcurrents.com/lakeland-residents-city-officials-talk-high-school-wing/
The LSB called a special meeting tonight to discuss the CIP and hear from Dr. Horrell who presented visuals on condition and capacity of Lakeland Elementary School (LES), eventual expansion of LMPS to cover Lakeland Prep (a high school) and an additional campus for grades K-5. Four residents questioned the CIP, the high school and the financing.
Dr. Horrell noted finishing the high school wing was not on the radar prior to the last couple of months. “But the Mayor (Wyatt Bunker) asked me to update the pricing,” he said.
“Three years ago part of the capital plan was to build one school,” he said. “But the bond referendum was defeated and the CON (Capital Outlay Notes) was passed to build the middle school.” With $3.5 million left from the LMPS construction, the Board was set to start building the phased in athletic fields behind the school, but then the BOC made the request for information, said Dr. Horrell.
“We find ourselves in a remarkable situation,” said Dr. Horrell of the City indicating there is money available for the high school wing.
Teresa Henry, LSB member, asked for build-out dates on two upcoming Lakeland neighborhoods, Oakwood Grove and Kensington Manor. Both are expected to contribute additional students to the LSS. Dr. Horrell said Oakwood Grove has six phases and Kensington Manor five and about 10 years to build out both subdivisions.
LSB member Geoff Hicks said the job of the inaugural School Board was to complete a K-12 system. “I believed in that vision long before I was on the Board,” he said. “The most frequently asked question to me as a Board member is when will we have a high school.”
Mrs. Henry said she believes it is a smart idea to look for property (for an additional school) as property values will likely increase.
When questioned about having AP, dual enrollment and extracurricular activities at a new high school, Dr. Horrell said there is no short answer, no magic formula.
“A lot of it depends on students and the population and their ability to take those courses.” At LMPS, he said, 33 percent of the students are taking honors and enriched classes.
He was quick to point out that Lakeland will not have the same AP or dual enrollment as Arlington High School (AHS). “But you design the courses around the students you have.” He said the experience at a Lakeland high school would be a different, smaller experience. Lakeland students in grades 9-12 currently attend AHS as part of an interlocal agreement between the two school systems.
Member Kelley Hale explained some research she did on course offerings and smaller schools throughout Tennessee. She summarized that among the schools with smaller enrollments there were still a variety of choices.
Dr. Horrell said there are currently 720 students at LMPS representing four grades who would likely move to a Lakeland high school. So he would expect an initial enrollment of 700-750 students at a high school,
Mr. Hicks said it comes down to local control of schools. “If we want to set a vision, we must have local control.”
Vice Chair Laura Harrison remembered at an LSB retreat several years ago, the Board didn’t just plan for that year or two years, but many years down the road and for a K-12 system. “We knew what it would mean to our students back then,” she said.
She said she has a bit of pause on the timing and would rather the additional wing be three years from now. “But legislation on the national level is driving this now,” she said. “Three may not be an option.” She was speaking of the GOP tax reform expected to pass by the end of 2017 or early 2018 which would prohibit refinancing of tax exempt municipal debt after Dec. 31, 2017.
Mrs. Henry expressed the same concern about waiting a few years but said, “We may lose this window of opportunity to actually make this happen.”
Mrs. Kelley reiterated the concern saying a couple of years wait might be better. “But I feel it is important to get a high school where parents have a voice.”
Eric Plumley, LSB attorney, was asked about a time frame on the interlocal with Arlington Community Schools and if building a high school in Lakeland would impact that agreement.
He said he reviewed the agreement and if Lakeland has high school aged students and the Board builds a high school, it’s fine according to the agreement he read. Asked if there was a 10-year term to the interlocal, he said the 2016 agreement has no definite term. “It is not a breach of the agreement,” he said, for Lakeland to build a school for its high school students.
Chair Kevin Floyd said in the discussion of the school being a need or want, he believes it is a need. “I think we have to stand on our own two feet,” he said. “This is not a knock on Arlington in any way,” he said, acknowledging that ACS Board members were in attendance as well as the ACS superintendent. “They’ve done an excellent job and we’re not unhappy with their decisions. But we want the same opportunities as the Arlington parents.”
From the citizens
Annette Monaghan presented a synopsis of social media concerns to the Board. Melanie Mays wanted to know if there is an educational need. David Abbott said he was opposed to the funding in 2015 and he continues to be opposed to borrowing so much money. Stephanie Lefler was also concerned about the financing, operating the school and said the System would be lucky to capture its own students.
Dr. Horrell said he is not concerned about a bare bones budget and the high school wing would not be underfunded. “It’s much better for us to operate the combined schools,” he said, noting there would be a lot of the same staff, like the principal and librarian.