Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Understanding Navasota ISD's Facilities Study Process

By Tim Seymore, Asst. Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer

The Board of Trustees of Navasota ISD has engaged the Texas Association of School Boards, On-Site Facilities Division, to conduct an assessment of the district’s facilities. TASB representatives, along with the district leadership and a representation from the community-at large, will be using the assessment to develop a Facilities Master Plan.  Navasota ISD has facilities that are in various stages of their life cycle, ranging from High Point Elementary, which opened in 2006, to the Administration Building, which opened as Navasota High School in 1930.  The assessment will focus on four critical areas:  Educational Adequacy, Building Safety and Security, Structural and Mechanical Features, and Plant Maintainability.

Educational adequacy is based on the relationship between the instructional program and the physical structures—the facilities.  School facilities exist for the sole purpose of meeting the educational needs of the community and the school district while adhering to Texas Education Agency space requirements.  Facilities affect the behavior of students, staff, and the community.  The environment provided should enhance the instructional program and not deter it.  School districts face a difficult challenge in meeting these needs and requirements while dealing with aging facilities and budget constraints.

Safety and security have become the most important responsibility of school officials. Students, staff, and visitors should reasonably expect to be protected when entering a school facility.  Although school safety cannot always be assured, every effort must be made to achieve and maintain the highest possible level of safety and mitigate potential threats.  School safety can relate to the site location, building design, selection of material, or poor operational practice. Safety and security not only protects the students, staff, and visitors but also helps to ensure uninterrupted operation of the educational program.

Structural and mechanical features are all basic functions of a facility, but it is these features that determine the potential for future expansion and meet new facility requirements in education and technology.  One of the most crucial requirements to consider is energy efficiency.  The building envelope is the first defense against rising energy costs.  Providing energy-efficient buildings not only helps reduce energy consumption but also can be part of the school district’s long-range energy plan required by the Texas Education Code § 44.902.  Lighting should provide the necessary illumination level, minimize glare and provide the overall best visual comfort level as recommended by the Illumination Engineering Society.  Instructional areas should have adequate access to electrical outlets to support the ever increasing media equipment.  An adequate number of restrooms and drinking fountains should be provided and conveniently located.  Another important factor to consider for newly constructed and renovated buildings is meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines.
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Plant maintainability refers to the ability to operate the facility at reasonable costs.  School districts have a responsibility to protect their investments.  No investment is more important financially than school facilities.  Buildings should be maintained as close to their newly constructed state as possible, but all building components have an expected life cycle.  The expected life cycle is the average useful life years that a building component should last based on regular and preventive maintenance.  With this in mind, school districts must understand that trying to use a component beyond its expected life is not always the most economical or efficient option.  Often the last 25 percent of the life of a component can cost more to maintain than replacing the component with a new or newly renovated component.

Everyone is encouraged to be a part of the process by participating in town hall meetings designed to gather input from the community, visiting the district’s facilities, and bringing your questions to the administration. The School Board should be presented with the Facility Master Plan in December.

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