10-year plan advances the conversation about current and future schools

The Lincoln Board of Education held a work session on Monday, March 20, at Lincoln Public Schools District Office, 5905 O St., focusing on the 10-year Facilities and Infrastructure Plan.

In light of significant growth at Lincoln Public Schools – especially over the past decade – the Lincoln Board of Education Monday continued the conversation aboutupdating what is called the 10-year Facilities and Infrastructure Plan – looking ahead to the facility needs of the school district in the coming years.

“This document is about many things, but mostly it is about dramatic growth in our community and our school district – and making sure there is broad community understanding,” said Scott Wieskamp, director of Operations at LPS.  “Our challenge is trying not to over-build, but to position ourselves well for growth. I believe we have done an excellent job of that in the past.”

The presentation and discussion are only the beginning of a long and intensive community-wide discussion – beginning with the clear and consistent message of growth, said Liz Standish, associate superintendent for Business Affairs. The 10-year plan is an important document, as it identifies priorities for facilities and infrastructure, guiding the development of schools, additions, renovations, infrastructure and more.

“This plan is not just about tomorrow,” Wieskamp told the Board.  “This is about years down the road – perhaps what is happening in our community in 30, 40, 50 years…This kind of long-range planning is really critical…and that is where your vision is so important.”

To prepare the document, school officials analyze enrollment trends, student demographics, growth – and, of course, they coordinate their plans with the city’s comprehensive plan, according to David Cary, the city Planning director, who also addressed the Board 

“We are one community, one school district,” Cary stressed.  “We believe we all have better decision making when it comes to a long-term vision in our community – when the city and school district work together.” 

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel asked Cary: Where is the growth coming from? 

Cary said the answer is a combination of many factors:

  • Historically Lincoln has been attracting more former residents from rural areas.
  • Demographics indicate that people in Lincoln feel good about having families and babies.
  • There is a positive net migration from out of state and out of country.
  • Lincoln is the flagship university campus and the state capitol.
  • The community has a robust economy with technology – with the momentum of the silicon prairie.

With that growth, the city and school district are particularly looking at what are called the hot spot development areas of Lincoln – and growth and capacity at schools in those areas.  Currently LPS is utilizing 85 percent of capacity at elementary schools, 97 percent of middle school space and 106 percent of high school space – but, of course, inevitably the populations of students are not evenly distributed among schools.   

Particularly pointing to the high school issue, Board member Matt Schulte said he believed this would be “a significant conversation…There is no one place on that map we can build one school and solve the issues…We really need to dive into this – sooner than later.”

Board member Kathy Danek urged the city and school district to make sure they track where kids are moving and not just developments and houses. 

Board member Barb Baier suggested the school district look beyond the question of location – but consider “a multi-faceted approach that meets the unique needs of student in high schools…accommodating unique family structures…And by that I mean our students should have more opportunity for e-learning, and a lot more variety of when classes are occurring, including evenings…We need to meet the educational needs of students.”   

LPS Superintendent Steve Joel noted: “The beauty of this process is that we have some time to think about this…This is the invitation that Boards regard highly…to think about things differently…But at the end of the day this is about community satisfaction.”

Board President Don Mayhew said he believes the key word for LPS over the next few words will be innovation.  “All options will be on the table….I think we will be seriously thinking about what it means to deliver curriculum at Lincoln Public Schools.  I find that very exciting.  We are right on the edge of coming up with something new.” 

Connie Duncan, vice president of the Board, said she believes that “now is the time we all need to listen to our constituents and make sure we are doing what our community wants…Now is the time that we can be the leaders in something innovative and out of the box.”

Board member Lanny Boswell explained that “ultimately we’ll need another community group to consider all these suggestions.”

In an early draft of updating the 10-year plan, LPS staff members are suggesting four new elementary schools, two new middle schools and possible new high school space – as part of the next decade at Lincoln Public Schools. In fact, the 10-year document draft identifies more than $486 million in facility and infrastructure unfunded needs in the school district, including:

  • Four elementary schools added to almost every quadrant of the city: south, southeast, northeast and northwest Lincoln (at a cost of about $20 million per elementary school).
  • Two middle schools added to: south and northeast Lincoln (at a cost of about $42 million per school).
  • Adding high school space in some form (such as a traditional high school, which costs about $79 million, and/or high school focus programs, e-learning, other high school concepts and programs).
  • Renovations to accommodate changing curriculum at existing middle and high schools.
  • Extensive renovations and additions of geothermal heating/cooling at Everett Elementary School and Park Middle School.
  • Potential accommodation for early childhood additions at LPS.

Other “tiers” of needs include:

  • Significant updates and renovations at Campbell, Cavett, Maxey and Roper elementary schools, as well as Lux and Scott middle schools.
  • Various renovations at Lincoln High, Lincoln East, Lincoln Northeast and Lincoln Southeast high schools.
  • A variety of additions and renovations to 10 elementary schools and six middle schools.
  • Adding an eight-lane swimming pool to Lincoln East High (the only LPS high school without an eight-lane competitive pool).
  • A weight room addition to Lincoln Southeast.
  • An indoor/outdoor activities/athletics fieldhouse facility for practice (not a competitive arena) serving LPS staff and students.
  • Completing a data center/generator at LPS District Office.
  • Replacing the Yankee Hill facility, which houses high school students with behavior needs.

The Plan also includes a potential $38 million in infrastructure costs that includes items such as roof replacement, windows, flooring, basics in playground equipment, parking lot paving, etc.



Published: March 20, 2017, Updated: March 21, 2017