Work on the initial phase to provide "guiding data" for a more specific long-range plan began in February and was completed recently.
The district paid DHA $30,000 for the first data-gathering phase, but has not yet approved any further study or work pending uncertainties about the economy and its impact on the community and its education needs in the coming years.
DHA's scope of work for the approved phase entails a building assessment and report that identifies the physical condition of each educational facility, including assessments of each building's educational adequacy, the condition of each structure and its infrastructure, compliance with building codes and disability access regulations, along with environmental safety, and maintainability of each structure.
"Overall, the district is in good shape and leadership is to be commended for its attention to maintaining these facilities," said Dickinson, telling the board that many schools for which the firm has conducted similar studies are in far worse shape.
"The reality is that the older structures like the one now used for Black Hawk Middle School, along with Daniel Boone Elementary, present definite challenges," said Dickinson, referring to classroom size, energy efficiency, climate control and other structural elements.
Done in conjunction with school staff and administrators, the DHA study included an extensive review of current conditions of all school buildings and infrastructure covering six categories:
* School sites (acreage appropriate to student populations, along with traffic patterns for play, walk and vehicular traffic); * Structure (roofs, disabled access, structural integrity); * Mechanical, electrical and technology (HVAC, electrical outlets, technology infrastructure); plant maintainability (windows, ceilings and other elements); * Building and site safety and security (inside visibility of people entering buildings, other safety code compliance); and * Educational adequacy (lighting and other features that have an impact on student learning).
Not surprisingly, at the top of concerns in the report, said Dickinson, are age-related issues with Daniel Boone Elementary and Black Hawk Middle School.
Single-pane glass windows originally installed in the old high school building are not energy efficient, costing the district additional expense in heating and cooling.
Some asbestos abatement is needed in floor tiling and the building's wheelchair access ramps are not compliant with current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) codes.
The report found some deterioration in the masonry walls that require tuck-pointing to avoid more serious structural issues.
More focus needs to be given to pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow to ensure safety, the study said. The report called out a potentially dangerous playground in the rear of Daniel Boone that adjoins a parking lot.
"I'm very excited to have such a comprehensive look at the state of our facilities," said Superintendent Dr. John Long. "With so many needs, it gives us a starting point for prioritizing our focus on facility-related projects."
Long noted the district already is at work fixing several of the bigger issues, such as repaving the crumbling asphalt on the circle drive drop-off at Daniel Boone Elementary.
The DHA report concluded that classroom and media center/library sizes - especially in the older buildings - are undersized for current student enrollment figures, according to standards set by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Long notes that some issues such as room sizes in the newer buildings have been a balancing act between desired facilities and available budget.
"The classroom trailer for the Alpha Academy shouldn't be a permanent solution," said Dickinson. "If a storm situation materializes, students and teachers would have to evacuate, for one thing, and lighting and air flow also are not ideal in these structures."
Long said he fully agrees and that finding a better more permanent solution is at the top of his priorities.
Dickinson provided rough order-of-magnitude figures for each of the categories - from $265,000 to address plant maintainability issues to $5.2 million to address every issue under the mechanical, electrical and technology category, including a new data center.
He said the district realistically will need to carve out its priorities based on available budget and financial goals.
"The next step is to analyze these findings and make the hard decisions about priorities," Dickinson told board members in conclusion.
"The good news is that the district overall is in comparatively good shape and that with this assessment, we have begun the long-range planning process."