Facilities Master Planning Questions and Answers (March 2016)

What do Piedmont Unified’s teachers say about Facilities Master Planning?

Piedmont Unified’s teachers provided numerous specific examples of how the proposed facilities improvements would remove real constraints on teaching and learning, and create new possibilities for 21st Century learning. Some examples from middle school teachers follow:
“If the walls were soundproofed, I could have more experiential and collaborative activities in my classroom without worrying about disturbing the classes next to my room. My students would also be able concentrate and learn much better if they were not distracted by noise from other classrooms. If I had more space, students would have room to collaborate, make presentations, or participate in experiential activities without tripping over each other’s backpacks or being hindered by furniture. This would allow them to be more creative and innovative.”
If my classroom had adequate space I could use the space to create learning environments for specific purposes. Here are four examples using expanded space which my students could use NOW:
  • “Experts Center. Students teaching students new technology skills. For example, Adam Seville is teaching two students in my social studies class to use Wevideo (think Chromebook “IMovie”). They will produce a “Ken Burns style” presentation that includes selected video clips about the Terra Cotta warriors of the Qin Dynasty. In an “Experts Center” they could teach other students these new skills, and those students could continue passing on these skills throughout the class.”
  • “Conference Center. Students could meet in small discussion groups for literature circles/book clubs or with partners to collaborate on writing. Currently students are writing scripts to demonstrate three ancient Chinese philosophies in a contemporary family setting, and this is very difficult in our crowded setting of table groups.”
  • “Project Center. Students could work on designing and building models and projects that demonstrate their knowledge. If we had this space students could build a 3D model of the lost wax and piece methods of bronze casting. Currently they are limited to 2D presentations due to lack of storage and design space.”
  • “Independent Work Center. We need a quiet corner for independent work and reading. There is substantial current research on the need to provide alternatives to group work for students. Our school psychologist has shared this research to encourage us to balance group work and independent classwork.”
“If my classroom were large enough to include shelving and supply cabinets all around the room I could display student work to serve as models and inspiration and store projects in progress. There are multiple classes that use every room, so project based learning is limited. Increasing storage for projects and materials would allow me to integrate more student initiated three dimensional art and design
experiences into our daily curriculum.”
“If my classroom had space for ongoing student work, I could dramatically increase opportunities for differentiation, personalized learning, student choice, and “passion based learning” ­ I need the flexibility to respond to student interests and needs.”
“If my classroom had more space I could use small rolling white boards and tablesize projection screens for group work. Currently we have no space for maximizing the potential of our current tech resources, so students are limited to doc sharing on individual screens when they collaborate.”
“If the library were modernized to include moveable walls/whiteboards, I could change up the space to accommodate whole classes and small groups, and my students could have a more options for collaborative workplaces. If the library were modernized with better sound­proofing, I could be heard without competing with surrounding classrooms/ 201 meetings/classes, and my students could better focus on the tasks at hand.”

What if the community does not support bond measures to improve facilities?

Many of the improvements outlined in the Facilities Master Plan will have to be done eventually, and, in the interim, students will continue to experience sub­standard learning conditions.
  • The District would need to spend significant resources to operate inefficient and ineffective mechanical, electrical, plumbing and heating systems, pouring good money into failing equipment that will ultimately have to be replaced. If deferred, the cost of replacement will likely escalate.
  • Spending money on failing equipment and systems, such as inefficient boilers and deteriorating sewer lines, would mean diverting money from the District’s general fund that would otherwise be available for educational programs.
  • Middle and high school students would remain in overcrowded, undersized classrooms that fail to provide an educationally appropriate, comfortable or secure learning environment. Poor sound insulation, ventilation, and climate control would continue to undermine learning.
  • The District would remain constrained in the range of courses and opportunities it offers students, particularly in STEAM education and career technical pathways.
  • The District would remain unable to offer extended­day kindergarten due to space constraints.
  • Elementary school students would remain in overheated and uncomfortable classrooms.
  • Piedmont Unified would fail to keep pace with surrounding public and private high schools that are investing millions of dollars in STEAM facilities and modernization.

The City of Piedmont has its own Master Plan. How is Piedmont Unified School District’s Facilities Master Plan related to the City’s Plan?

The City of Piedmont and the Piedmont Unified School District are distinct legal entities, and the regulatory oversight for their capital improvements and funding are separate. For example, all proposed public school construction in California must be reviewed and approved by the Division of State Architect (DSA), which has the authority to require that school projects include accessibility and life safety improvements to bring school facilities into compliance with current building codes. City projects are not subject to this DSA review.
Although the City and the School District capital programs are subject to different rules, procedures, and oversight, there is a commitment to confer and collaborate to the greatest extent possible. Specifically: there are regular liaison meetings between the City Council and School Board, and master planning is a key topic this year; Pete Palmer, Piedmont Unified’s Director of Facilities, participated in the City’s planning group concerning the aquatic center, and contributed to the City’s pedestrian and traffic safety plans; Chief of Police Rikki Goede and Recreation Director Sara Lillevand have consulted on the schools’ Facilities Master Plan; Fire Marshall Dave Swan worked with Piedmont Unified on a comprehensive fire/life/safety assessment and participates in active fire drills at the school sites; Director of Public Works Chester Nakahara consults on parking and pedestrian safety as well as storm drains, utilities, and other improvements that are coordinated between the City and School District

A few years ago the District proposed a bond measure to renovate Alan Harvey Theater and voters did not approve the measure. Will improvements to the Theater be included in the Facilities Master Plan?

Yes. Alan Harvey Theater is undersized for the current school population, does not adequately support Piedmont Unified’s performing and theater arts programs, and does not comply with current fire/life/safety and accessibility codes, so the Facilities Master Plan includes these improvements.
The District received a range of feedback about why voters did not support the Alan Harvey Theater measure. Many voters questioned how the proposed theater improvements fit within an overall plan for facilities, particularly plans for STEAM labs and for modernizing antiquated classrooms at the middle and high schools. Based in part on this feedback, Piedmont Unified has now undertaken this comprehensive Facilities Master Plan.

When the Facilities Master Plan is implemented, would students have to be relocated during construction? If so, would the relocation site be outside of Piedmont?

Whether temporary relocation of middle and high school students will be needed would depend on the scope and sequence of campus improvements, and these have yet to be determined. The work identified at the elementary campuses could be completed over summers, when no students are on campus, so there would be no relocation issue.
The District hopes to avoid relocation of middle and high school students to a temporary school site for several reasons. Relocation adds considerable expense to construction projects and can be disruptive for students and staff. Also, as a practical matter, there are few, if any, appropriate relocation options within or close to Piedmont. The District hopes to avoid relocation through careful sequencing of the implementation plan. For example, the Facilities Master Plan calls for additional middle and high school classrooms and labs to ease overcrowding and meet program needs. If new classrooms and labs are constructed first, the new facilities could then be used as “temporary housing” while older buildings are modernized. If phased properly, students could be cycled through the new facilities throughout the renovation, so all students would remain on the Magnolia campus.

After the Facilities Master Plan is adopted, will there be continuing community involvement in implementation of the Plan?

Yes. To be most effective, facilities projects require ongoing community involvement and oversight. Piedmont Unified has long relied on a steering committee to oversee both the Seismic Safety Bond Program (SSBP) and the Modernization Program (MP), and both programs were completed on time and on budget. Specifically, the SSBP Steering Committee and the MP Steering Committee met regularly with District staff, architects, and construction managers to oversee planning and management of individual projects and program financing. Members of these committees contributed significant professional expertise and helped guide these programs to successful completion.

In the next few months, the Steering Committee will study the Facilities Master Plan, and help prioritize and phase the work in anticipation of one or more facilities bond measures. The Steering Committee will also oversee implementation.
The community members currently serving on the Steering Committee are: Grier Graff; Brad Hebert; Robert Hendrickson; John Gibbs; Sally Aldridge; Angel Fierro; and Bernard Pech. District staff who serve on the Committee include: Superintendent Randall Booker; Assistant Superintendent Song Chin­-Bendib; Director of Facilities Pete Palmer; and Board of Education Members Rick Raushenbush and Doug Ireland.

Is the District eligible to receive State funding for these projects?

The District is likely eligible for state matching funds to help pay for modernization of the middle and high school facilities. Eligibility is based on the age of buildings, student population, and past receipt of state modernization funds. The District estimates that it is eligible to receive between $4.8 million and $6.47 million in state funds, provided that Piedmont Unified offers a 40% match.
The actual amount of the state modernization grant would depend, in part, on the extent of accessibility and fire life/safety code compliance work that is required by California’s Division of State Architect (DSA) in the final project scope. In addition to State modernization funds, Piedmont Unified is eligible to receive state grants for water and energy conservation projects.
The District will receive a $650,000 DROPS (Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools) grant for water conservation enhancements on the high school campus, and $420,000 over five years for energy efficiency and conservation improvements across the District.

How will these improvements be funded?

In California, school districts typically finance capital improvements by issuing bonds. To issue bonds, approval by 55% of local voters is required. In addition, aggregate debt issued by the district (or “bonding capacity”) may not exceed 2.5% of assessed value of the district’s taxable property. Also, bonds may be issued only if the estimated tax rate levied to repay the bonds does not exceed $60 per year per $100,000 of assessed value of the taxable property.7
Piedmont Unified’s bond financing consultant, KNN Public Finance, recently reported that the District’s bonding capacity is now roughly $66 million, and this number will increase over the next few years as previously­ issued school bonds are retired. To see KNN’s presentation to the Board of Education on January 13, 2016, click here.
The District will likely propose a series of bond measures over time to make these improvements.
7. California Education Code section 15270 imposes these limits on the sale of school construction bonds in phases.

What will it cost to implement the Facilities Master Plan?

District staff worked with architects, engineers, and three general contractors, each with extensive experience in public school construction, to develop detailed cost estimates for implementing the Plan. If all work identified in the Facilities Master Plan were to be addressed in a single (multi­year) phase, the estimated cost is $137 million. This includes hard costs (cost of construction), soft costs (architectural and engineering fees, state design review fees, inspection and permit fees, utilities fees, estimated price escalation over the next few years, and furnishings, fixtures, and equipment), and contingency funds. Nonetheless, Piedmont Unified cannot afford to address everything in a single phase. Instead, the Plan will be implemented in phases and actual cost will depend on the scope and sequence of each phase, which have yet to be determined.

How will the District prioritize the work?

Piedmont Unified’s Board of Education will prioritize improvements based on educational needs and goals, considering input from the school community, broader Piedmont community, and City of Piedmont. The Board is soliciting public input on the priorities and will conduct a public opinion poll in the next month. Additional public meetings concerning priorities for near­term facilities improvements will be held throughout the remainder of this school year. These meetings include Board of Education meetings on March 23, May 11 and 25, and June 8 and 22, and a community town hall meeting in April or May (date to be determined), In addition, the District’s Facilities Steering Committee is meeting regularly to develop options for the Board to consider when setting priorities for implementation.

How will the Facilities Master Plan be used?

The Facilities Master Plan is a long­range planning document that will guide short­term and long­term facilities improvements. Piedmont Unified cannot afford to address everything in the Plan at one time, and that is not the intent. Instead, the District will have to prioritize the work and propose a series of bond measures over time, seeking voter approval to make these improvements in phases.

What needs are identified in the Facilities Master Plan?

Piedmont Middle and High Schools4

  • To accommodate current and projected enrollment, the middle school needs at least three additional classrooms and the high school needs at least two additional classrooms and one additional science lab.
  • To support STEAM education, labs must be configured with sufficient preparation, collaboration, project, presentation, and storage space.
  • To provide an educationally appropriate, comfortable and secure learning environment, sound insulation, ventilation, climate control, and additional restrooms are needed.
  • To support a range of teaching strategies ­­ including quiet study, research, small­group collaboration, project work and exploration, presentations, and formal instruction ­­ classrooms must be modernized and furnished for maximum versatility.
  • Antiquated mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems must be replaced.
  • To sustain, improve and expand course offerings, specialized facilities are needed:
    • The high school cafeteria, Piper Cafe, is used as the culinary arts classroom and for conferences, presentations, professional development programs for educators, and parent education programs. Nonetheless, use of the Cafe kitchen for career technical education programs in culinary arts means that the kitchen is not available for its original cafeteria purposes during class time. For this reason, the Cafe kitchen can support one section only of the culinary arts class. Also, the cafeteria is not well­suited for conferences and presentations due to poor acoustics. Additional teaching, conference, and presentation space is needed.
    • Alan Harvey Theater is used daily as a classroom, as well as for assemblies, rehearsals, performances, and community events. The Theater lobby is also used on a regular basis for small group meetings and rehearsals. The Theater is undersized for the current school population, does not adequately support the performing arts programs and needs for performance space, does not support Community needs for presentation and performance space, and does not comply with current fire/life/safety and accessibility codes. Additional seating capacity and additional teaching, rehearsal, and ancillary backstage spaces are needed.
    • Course offerings in sports medicine and related fields require dedicated space and equipment that support instruction in physiology, athletic training, nutrition, preventative care, and rehabilitation techniques. This space differs from typical classrooms, in part because training tables and equipment storage is needed.
  • The turf on Witter Field has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced. In addition, underground drainage is inadequate and must be improved to protect the new turf from stretching and tearing due to the pooling of water from Bushy Dell Creek under the surface. These improvements are critical to preserve and enhance student athletics.
  • To support the social and emotional health of students, additional, private meeting space is needed at the middle school for Wellness Center programs.
  • To the extent feasible, parking and traffic issues should be mitigated. The District has been working with the City of Piedmont to reduce traffic congestion along Magnolia Avenue during drop­off and pick­up times with new parking zones, permits, and signage. Off­street, paved parking is desirable for faculty, staff and visitors although the constrained area around the middle and high school campuses makes this difficult. The District and the City are continuing to explore possible solutions for Magnolia Avenue.
Piedmont Elementary Schools5
  • Extended-­day kindergarten is needed to better serve students. The District currently offers half­day kindergarten due to space constraints. Nonetheless, a growing body of research suggests that extended­day kindergarten produces greater learning gains than half­day programs. Furthermore, elementary school curriculum is developed based on the assumption that kindergarten is a full day, so offering half­day­only kindergarten necessarily means that students are not covering all recommended curriculum. For these reasons, additional kindergarten classrooms are needed.
  • Climate control measures are needed to prevent classrooms from overheating and provide a comfortable learning environment. Ambient classroom temperatures exceed 80 degrees at least 30 school days per year.6
  • All three elementary schools need additional shade for the outdoor recreational areas.

All School Sites

  • Additional support spaces and meeting rooms are needed to meet current teaching needs.
  • To the extent feasible, each campus should have a secure perimeter and administrative oversight over the access points to enhance safety and security. At the same time, facilities such as fields and playgrounds should be unlocked and open for community use and enjoyment during non­school hours.
4. Piedmont Unified has two high schools and one middle school, clustered together at 740-800 Magnolia Avenue. Piedmont High School has 39 classrooms, roughly 110,000 square feet of building space, and 871 students enrolled for 2015­-16. PHS consists of several separate facilities that were constructed in the 1920s, 1930s, 1960s, and 1970s, and includes classroom buildings, the Student Services building, Binks Gym, Alan Harvey Theater, and the Witter Field complex. Millennium High School is an alternative high school that shares space with PHS and the District’s administrative offices. MHS has 4 classrooms (1 that is shared with PHS) and 80 students. Piedmont Middle School has 33 classrooms, roughly 85,000 square feet of building space, and 683 students enrolled for 2015-­16. PMS buildings were constructed in the 1970s and 1990s and include the Science Building and Morrison and Redford Gyms.
5. Piedmont Unified School District has three elementary schools. Beach Elementary (100 Lake Avenue) has 18 classrooms, roughly 35,000 square feet of building space, and 334 students enrolled for 2015­-16. Beach was modernized and seismically strengthened in 2011 and 2012. Havens Elementary (323 Highland Avenue) has 23 classrooms, roughly 51,000 square feet of building space, and 498 students enrolled for 2015­-16. Havens was built in 2009. Wildwood Elementary (301 Wildwood Avenue) has 15 classrooms, roughly 20,000 square feet of building space, and 311 students enrolled for 2015-­16. Wildwood was modernized and seismically strengthened in 2010.
6. All elementary classrooms were supposed to get air conditioning and climate control features when they were renovated as part of the seismic safety program. However, in order to ensure completion of the seismic work, the installation of air conditioning units was deferred for budgetary reasons.

How was the Facilities Master Plan developed?

  • Assessment of whether Facilities Support Educational Goals
    During the fall of 2015, nearly 30 District educators and administrators met four times to discuss the educational programs and goals, and the educational appropriateness of the existing facilities.1The group discussed: current and future educational needs of students; classroom functionality and capacity; whether the school sites provide an environment that is appropriate, comfortable and conducive to learning, including classroom size, acoustics, air quality, ventilation, and climate control; student safety and security; and current and future facilities use by the broader Piedmont community. The group consulted with the Piedmont Police Department, Piedmont Recreation Department, and school security professionals.
  • Assessment of Physical Condition of Facilities
    During the same time period, a team of architects and engineers assessed the condition of each school facility including: educational appropriateness; mechanical and plumbing systems; safety and security; energy efficiency; and fire/life/safety and accessibility code compliance. This team consulted with the Piedmont Police Department, Recreation Department, Department of Public Works, and school security professionals concerning site security and community use. The team also developed a “solar master plan” with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to generate enough solar power to offset all of Piedmont Unified’s energy use. This assessment was informed by California Department of Education (CDE) standards and guidelines concerning classroom size and features.2

    The project team also consulted with the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), a non­profit organization that specializes in school design that is versatile, energy­efficient, and provides a healthy educational environment. For example, CHPS has developed models for: maximizing flexibility of classrooms so they can be easily reconfigured for project­based learning and other purposes; integrating outdoor space for educational purposes; and incorporating natural light and energy­ efficient materials. The team also reviewed school specifications promulgated by Makers groups.

  • Community Meetings at each School Site
    Piedmont Unified hosted a series of facilities tours and public meetings at each school site to gather community input concerning the adequacy of school facilities. Educators, students, families, and the broader Piedmont community were encouraged to participate.3
  • Board of Education Meetings
    In addition to receiving progress reports at its regular meetings, the Board of Education held a special meeting on December 14, 2015 to review all input received at the school site meetings. As with the site meetings, the December 14 meeting was publicized in the school bulletins, school newspaper, and local newspapers, and all members of the public were encouraged to participate.Following this meeting, the District created a draft Facilities Master Plan that combined (1) the assessment of the educational appropriateness of facilities with (2) the assessment of the physical condition of facilities and (3) community input received. The project team also developed two illustrations ­­ for purposes of discussion and soliciting further community input ­­ demonstrating different approaches to implementing the Plan. The draft Plan was presented at three public meetings (to date), on January 12, January 19, and February 10.The Board of Education will hold additional meetings on the draft Plan in the coming months, and will likely finalize and adopt the Plan in April 2016.

1. This team included: Randall Booker, Superintendent; Song Chin­Bendib, Chief Business Officer; Pete Palmer, Director of Maintenance, Operations & Facilities; Dr. Cheryl Wozniak, Director of Curriculum & Instruction; Stephanie Griffin, Director of Instructional Technology; Michael Brady, Director of Alternative & Adult Education; Julie Valdez, Director of Special Education; Brent Daniels, Principal of PHS; Ken Taylor, Elementary Admin Rep; Sati Shah, Principal of MHS; Ryan Fletcher, Principal of PMS; Courtney Goen, Virginia Leskowksi, Marna Chamberlain, PHS Teacher Reps; Ken Brown, MHS Teacher Rep; Amy Savage, Carolyn White, Logan Medina, PMS Teacher Reps; Ras Medura, PUSD Custodian; Mike Wong, PMS Classified Rep; Lydia Adams, Kelly Wallis, Havens Teacher Reps; Lianne Morrison, Kathleen Schneider, Wildwood Teacher Reps, Anne Valva, Raul Jorcino, Beach Teacher Reps.

2. For example, CDE recommends at least 960 square feet of classroom space for a class of 25­30 students, and at least 1350 square feet for a kindergarten class. For a science classroom, CDE recommends at least 1400 square feet but prefers at least 1600 square feet. The recommended ventilation for classrooms is eight “outside air changes” per hour. Without adequate air changes, air becomes stagnant and carbon dioxide accumulates. At the high school and middle school, there are classrooms with zero air exchanges per hour. In some of these classrooms, the only ventilation is to open a window, but cold temperatures preclude this for part of the year. The recommended acoustics (or “sound transmission”) rating for classrooms is at least 50, but at the middle school and parts of the high school this rating is zero. This means that measurable background noise, which is supposed to be at or below 25 decibels, is typically above 35 decibels.

3. The school site meetings were held as follows: PHS (10/26/15); PMS (11/2/15); MHS (11/5/15); Havens (11/12/15); Wildwood (11/19/15); Beach (11/30/15); and PHS/MHS (12/1/15).

Why fix something that isn’t broken?

Piedmont Unified provides an excellent education, so some have asked whether facilities upgrades are really needed. There are significant reasons for investing in facilities improvements:
  • Investment in facilities at the middle and high schools is now overdue and unavoidable. These schools have antiquated mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems that have reached the end of their useful life. These systems are inefficient and expensive to operate, and require either overhaul or replacement.
  • The middle and high schools do not have a sufficient number of classrooms to support current and projected enrollment. The middle school needs at least three additional classrooms, and the high school needs at least two additional classrooms and one additional science lab.
  • The District has identified a range of vital educational needs ­­ from the need to provide extended-­day kindergarten to the need for modern science labs and maker spaces ­­ that can be addressed only through facilities improvements.
  • Serious deficiencies that distract from and undermine the learning environment include poor sound insulation, poor ventilation, poor climate control, and insufficient restrooms. At the middle and high schools, noise transfers among rooms, making it difficult for students and teachers to hear each other. At all schools, climate control measures and improved ventilation are needed to prevent classrooms from overheating in warmer months.
  • Modernization of antiquated facilities is needed to keep pace with surrounding public and private schools, which are investing millions of dollars in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) facilities. These schools include: Miramonte High School (Orinda); Campolindo High School (Moraga); Skyline High School (Oakland); Monte Vista High School (Danville); San Mateo Union High School (San Mateo); Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland); Head Royce (Oakland); Bentley (Lafayette); College Preparatory School (Oakland); Redwood Day School (Oakland); and De La Salle High School (Concord). The project costs are not available for all of these, although Cahill Construction reported that De La Salle’s new STEAM building cost $18.5 million to construct, Head Royce invested $33 million in capital improvements, and Oakland Unified School District recently invested $55 million in new science and classroom facilities.

How have educational needs changed?

Since the middle and high school buildings were constructed, course offerings have become more varied and some courses require specialized classrooms and labs ­ particularly in the fields of science, technology and engineering. Course work now incorporates collaboration in small
groups and presentations, but undersized classrooms and heavy, inflexible furnishings make it difficult to reconfigure classrooms to support these activities. Lab work requires safe and suitable space for group projects and project storage, and inadequate labs, in fact, constrain
teaching and learning opportunities. Additional specialized facilities are needed to offer or expand courses in film, web design, theater arts (including set and lighting design), graphic arts, culinary arts, and sports medicine, among others.

Haven’t the schools been modernized?

Yes and no. Piedmont Unified recently completed seismic safety and technology modernization programs. The elementary schools were renovated or rebuilt to better withstand earthquakes, and all facilities have new technology infrastructure. Nonetheless, the middle and high schools have not been modernized, and many of their building systems have reached the end of their useful life and must be replaced. Also, educational needs have changed since these schools were constructed, and both additional and different kinds of facilities are needed

Why is Facilities Master Planning needed?

Educational programs and objectives must keep pace with the changing needs of the world outside the classroom. Readiness for higher education and future careers requires different types of knowledge, different educational experiences, and a different set of skills than in the
past. To serve the needs of students, it is essential to offer students a broad range of educational opportunities. For example, students must have the opportunity to: learn through project­based exploration, collaboration, and presentation? investigate the connections among
the sciences, and develop and test hypotheses? work individually, in small groups, and in large groups? complete service projects? and take full advantage of modern educational technologies.
The purpose of the Facilities Master Plan is to address current and future educational needs of students and ensure that facilities provide both the functionality and capacity to support educational excellence.

What is “Facilities Master Planning”?

Piedmont Unified School District is assessing whether its facilities support changing educational programs and goals, and making plans to ensure that facilities enhance educational programs now and in the future. This process, called “facilities master planning,” is intended to further the District’s fundamental goal of educational excellence.