The Walled Lake Consolidated School District Board of Education listened to a facility study update at a Thursday, April 14 board meeting and learned that many district buildings could fall below 70-percent utilization within the next five years.
The report included additional information from Plante Moran, the firm conducting the study on the district’s 14 elementary schools and five support buildings.
According to Walled Lake Schools Director of Community Relations Judy Evola, the district is conducting the study to “best ensure that we are utilizing our buildings’ space in the most cost-effective, efficient ways and that our facilities balance with our enrollment and curricular needs.”
According to Plante Moran’s preliminary findings that were released in January, the elementary schools are at 83 percent capacity with their current total enrollment of 6,618. The current enrollment capacity is 7,884.
Over the next five years, enrollment is projected to drop to 5,999 elementary school students. This would lower the enrollment capacity to 76 percent, with most of the schools being under-utilized.
“With the decreasing enrollment trend, practically speaking, it would lead one to think that we would be under-utilized at some point,” said Bill Chatfield, the district’s director of operations.
That seems to be the case according to the updated facility presentation, which can be found at www.wlcsd.org. It shows most of the buildings falling to below a 70 percent utilization level within the next five years.
The buildings with the lowest expected building utilization percentages over the next five years were Twin Beach Elementary School at a little over 50 percent, Meadowbrook Elementary at 53 percent, and Oakley Park Elementary at 55 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, Mary Helen Guest Elementary was noted with the highest utilization level at 77 percent, Wixom Elementary was cited at 75 percent, and Pleasant Lake Elementary was noted at 70 percent.
The conditions of the buildings were also graded on a 100-point scale. Those receiving top scores were the Outdoor Education Center at 93, Pleasant Lake at 91, and Meadowbrook at 89. Those with the lowest included Dublin Elementary with 55, Walled Lake and Twin Beach elementaries, which each were scored at slightly under 60.
As far as functional value, the buildings were rated on the condition of building space for programmatic function and quality with components weighted by educational function on a 100-point scale. Core educational functions such as classrooms, large group function, and teacher planning were weighted highest, while support functions like dining and custodial services received the lowest point value.
Receiving the highest function score were the Outdoor Education Center at 93, Pleasant Lake at 91, and Meadowbrook at 90. Those with the lowest scores included Dublin at 55, Twin Beach at 59, and Walled Lake at 59.
The facility study is taking place as the district prepares to make significant budget cuts for the 2011-12 academic year.
While the district initially expected to have to make reductions of $20 million during the upcoming budget year, that number has grown to $24 million after further analysis of several factors, including Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to cut state funding for the 2011-12 year by $470 per student. After factoring in retirement rate increases, special education reductions, health insurance increases, temporary state and federal funds, state-funded programs, enrollment declines, additional unemployment, and Snyder’s proposal, district officials now believe the district will lose $1,559 per pupil for the next school year.
Meanwhile, the district is still asking the public to complete a facility survey found at www.wlcsd.org before Friday, April 22 in order to receive input on the facility study and help determine a course of action.