Board to consider updated facilities plan and proposed construction project at Yankee Hill

Lincoln Board of Education members will consider revising the school district’s ten-year facilities and infrastructure plan to include a new 47,000-square-foot facility at the Yankee Hill Education Center site at the next regular meeting on May 28.
Lincoln Public Schools leaders discussed the proposal on Friday. LPS staff members have identified a need for additional space for student support programming at elementary, middle and high school levels, which led to the development of the Yankee Hill proposal. 
LPS Director of Operations Scott Wieskamp said the timing was right for the Yankee Hill project. If the board approves the proposal, LPS would build a new facility on 25 acres of land south of the current site at West Burnham Street. The district already owns the property, and the project was previously included in the Tier 2 priority list of the ten-year facilities and infrastructure plan.
“Now is an opportunity,” Wieskamp said. “We have enough money to do the facilities the right way.”
The proposed project would cost approximately $25 million. LPS Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs Liz Standish said all of the funding is already in place due to good fiscal responsibility. District leaders took advantage of a favorable financing climate when voters passed a bond issue in 2020. They also used prudent construction practices to successfully stretch the dollars in all of the bond projects.
“We had an extremely favorable interest rate, and our net proceeds from that issuance were higher than we estimated,” Standish said. “That’s what created the capacity and the funding to go into Tier 2. We’re following a longstanding practice in the Lincoln community with good management.”
Lincoln Board of Education initiated a ten-year facilities planning process in 2005 to serve as a guideline for district needs. The document has been subject to annual reviews, approvals and changes over the years as circumstances and conditions have warranted.
The current plan was approved on Dec. 10, 2019. Many community-based groups such as the Superintendent’s Facilities Advisory Committee and High School Task Force identified numerous needs for district students. Sixty-two percent of Lincoln residents voted in favor of the bond issue on Feb. 11, 2020.
The district used the bond money to first address needs listed on Tier 1 of the facilities plan. LPS leaders then looked at possible Tier 2 projects. LPS Director of Student Services Ryan Zabawa said the Yankee Hill site proposal rose to the top for educational reasons.
“We’re overcrowded,” Zabawa said. “We have more students than we have space, so we have to rotate on an A/B schedule during the day to accommodate all the students’ needs.”
Yankee Hill Education Center has been part of the neighborhood since 1954. The facility currently serves as home for a high school behavioral skills program for students in grades 9-12. The students who currently attend have been identified as needing a period of time in a safe, supportive, therapeutic environment that focuses on building pro-social skills along with academics. Staff members are trained in a behavior program model to create a structured and safe school environment for students.
The proposed new facility would house the existing Yankee Hill program to address high school behavioral skills, and add the student support and transition programs.

The high school student support program is in the Student Services Department. It provides students with an opportunity to continue their academic progress and earn credits during times of transition, long-term suspensions or expulsions. Currently located at Nuernberger Education Center, it helps students in a smaller, more-structured environment.
The high school transition program allows LPS students to work on obtaining graduation requirements through an eLearning curriculum. The program, which can serve up to 40 students in grades 9-12, is currently located at Northeast High School and Nuernberger Education Center.
The current Yankee Hill facility would be repurposed into a space for the district’s Individual Success Program (ISP). ISP is a comprehensive special education program for students who have developmental disabilities. It serves students from kindergarten through age 21 and helps them with academic performance, mental health, social wellbeing, behavioral needs and inclusive advocacy.
Elementary students currently take ISP classes at Humann and Robinson schools. All middle school students take classes at Lux, and students in grades 9-12 take courses at both East and Northwest high schools. LPS Director of Special Education Mindy Roberts said it will benefit students, staff and community members to have all students in one location at the refurbished Yankee Hill site.
“Bringing them here in one location would really support resources in a better way, as well as giving them opportunities to be around more of their peers than they are in their smaller programs that are housed in our traditional schools,” Roberts said.
The project would allow Nuernberger Education Center to be fully dedicated to serving middle school students. Don Sherrill Education Center would continue to serve elementary students in the student support program.
If the board approves the proposal to update the ten-year facilities plan in May, it would advance to a second reading on June 11. Wieskamp said the tentative design process would take approximately nine months and construction could begin during the Spring 2025 semester. A soft opening is planned to happen in January 2027.

Published: May 24, 2024, Updated: May 24, 2024

LPS Director of Operations Scott Wieskamp talks about the ten-year facilities and infrastructure plan.