Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Facilities consultant recommendations

From the PG:



Questioner said...

There is much more to be said about the proposed plan, but the consultants are to be credited with presenting a complete plan so that all costs and alternatives can be considered up front. The consultants also anticipate considerable discussion and deliberation. For the discussion to be meaningful, though, we will need a high level of transparency, and information on how particular calculations were done and conclusions reached will need to be provided promptly.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The term and standard, "Like New" needs to be fully flushed out. "Like New" is a foundation principle throughout.

We have two cars. One is "like new" and the other is used and older. Both take us where we want to go. One is paid for. The other is not.

I don't think the district needs to have all of its schools in 'like new' condition. That would be great -- if there was some pixie dust somewhere and magic could be deployed. But, getting 'like new' puts the district into a 'dream world.'

We need 'stewardship.'

Anonymous said...

The term "like new" was used by DeJong for the purposes of comparing "apples to apples". I do not believe that there is any intention of suggesting that, for instance, $50M go into Allderdice to make it "like new".

However, this method of comparison regarding construction costs highlights the estimate for the renovation of the Schenley building. The $84M price tag was for "like new" construction, unrealistic and not needed.

Schenley should be revisited in light of the consultants recommendations.

Anonymous said...

As a parent I wonder more about the status of reconstituted schools under NCLB. Do they essentially get a "do over" once they are reconfigured? For example, Rooney, a 6-8 becoming a K-8. Are they classified "new?"
For now, I think we can all wonder, but keep the report in perspective. The Board and administration can ignore the entire thing if they want to.

Questioner said...

The "like new" benchmark is an issue. The consultants said that the district could choose not to make all of the retained buildings "like new," and as a practical and economic matter it is unlikely that all of these buildings would be refurbished. So, a more useful benchmark may have been, how much would it cost to make each retained building useful for 30 years (noting also whether for this cost any useful like beyond 30 years can be expected).

Another practical issue not taken into account in the consultants' figures are what it would cost to provide features missing from schools. If for example a school is missing a gym or an auditorium, the cost for the school apparently does not include the cost to add a gym or auditorium- that would be extra. The current study by A+ schools on equality among schools should be helpful in identifying shortcomings.

And finally, the consultants assumed everything would need to be brought up to code. Again as a practical matter, however, many historic buildings are never brought up to certain codes. Today's code requires classrooms of a certain size, for example, but the charm and quality of older construction (not to mention expense) in many cases means that we would settle for rooms that are a little smaller, or which have more staircases and fewer ramps than a new building might have. For this reason many old buildings are "grandfathered" out of nonessential code requirements.

So, while the consultants' work is a good starting point, the plan needs to be reviewed and adjusted to make it useful from a practical and economic point of view. Where will we settle for less than new, where can we settle for the current room configuration, and where do we need to add in costs for missing features?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Okay, Apples to Apples in the Garden of Eden proves a point. But, now what? We don't live there.

We need a stewardship standard for real world Pittsburgh.

Getting back to Schenley, how much is the fix-up for the campus without a re-do of the pipe organ and expresso bar?

But still, for example, the gym at Reizenstein is fine for IB if you looked at it (as the consultants did) and didn't undstand that it is only 1/4 or 1/3 of what is necessary. That goes to the decision to close Peabody and shutter it like Schenley. Well, there is plenty to talk about -- still.

Questioner said...

Schenley should definitely be revisited, and now would be a good time for the Schenley committee that the board voted to form over two years ago.

The consultant stated that construction costs are now running 20-40% below what they were a few years back. That would translate into a figure for Schenley of $50M to $67M, and maybe less if we looked for opportunities to cut costs. The amount projected for Reizenstein is $40M plus there would be costs for an auditorium. When you take into account the useful life of a refurbished Schenley v. the useful lif of a refurbished Reizenstein (which after 25 years or so would most likely not be worth keeping no matter what is done now), the cost per useful year at Schenley is likely to be less. Schenley looks like an even smarter move if you consider the cost per useful student year by taking into account the capacity of the building. Schenley has space to again house the robotics program; it is difficult to see how robotics could fit into 6-12 schools at Reizenstein or Westinghouse. If less capacity is needed the top floor of Schenley could be left unrenovated, reducing costs even further. Finally, opportunity costs must be considered. As Bill Peduto pointed out, Reizenstein is in a desired commercial location. If Reizenstein is returned to tax rolls it will generate year after year of income from school taxes.

As has been noted before, Schenley's central location near libraries and cultural amenities would be the smart choice to make the IB school a real gem, and it's location would make it possible for the IB school, Milliones and sci tech to join together for sports and activities on a real and substantial basis rather than for a few isolated instances.

Anonymous said...

Combining Peabody with Westinghouse and making it a 6-12 school?????? Does anyone else think this is crazy?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Call me 'cold' -- but I'm glad that the consultants didn't look at the petty neighborhood rivalry issues.

Let's grow up already.

Westinghouse is a great building. Westinghouse has great capacity that is being squandered.

It makes some sense to merge Peabody into Westinghouse. It might make good sense to expand from 6 to 12 too. ?? Less solid on that one.

Frankly, I would rather see Westinghouse be the Sci-Tech School, a city-wide magnet. But, that didn't happen.

Plus, if Peabody & Westinghouse merge in HS -- and if IB moves to Oakland (Schenley) then Reizentein gets possible re-use as a middle school or else as a re-development deal and pulls weight for taxes.

Having open buildings (as Schenley is now) is a great opportunity to re-hab without students there.

Questioner said...

The physical inspection of the school was 80 schools in 3 weeks- so 5 schools a day- it would be easy to miss whether gyms were regulation size. There are a lot of refinements to be made.

Questioner said...

Rehabbing with students present is a real issue. When the Schenley renovation was discussed we were given cost figures for work done in an empty building v. work done around students or in summers only, and the occupied building/ summer option was much more expensive.

So another question is, does the $40M cost for Reizenstein include the premium for working in an occupied building?

Re: Peabody/Westinghouse- if there are 325 at Westinghouse now and about 475 at Peabody that is 800. Does that leave enough room for a middle school? Does it leave enough room if we finally do something about the graduation rate and really keep a lot more kids in school, which is a stated top priority of the board?

Anonymous said...

This discussion on expanding the number of grades makes me think of the parent who spoke at the October public hearing and whose testimony is published on this blog. Expanding schools to 6-12 only really accomplishes decreasing the number of buildings in operation unless a way to calm the worries of parents who do not wish their 6th graders to share space with high schoolers is found. Same can be said about a school serving two communities when there are clearly turf issues.

Questioner said...

We're still waiting to see how sharing space works out for boys/girls/ middle and HS teams sharing one gym; and middle and HS sharing one auditorium for plays; or do a lot of these experiences just slip away?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Getting 6th to 12th grades under the same roof is not like a turf thingie. Apples and oranges.

Kids of the same age and same abilities are in the same classes.

Kids of different grades can be kept apart from each other.

The worries, well, worries are worries. They need to be overcome or else be a hurdle.

Questioner said...

One other thing- the consultant anticipated the district needing to spend $700M on whichever buildings were kept- a huge amount, but it is good to see someone acknowlege that buildings are important and that all money cannot go to "programs."

Before any money is spent it will be important to know the total amount of money to be spent, how it will be divided up, and how many students will benefit from each expenditure. While it is difficult to know what is theoretical "like new" and what is a real expected cost, some elementary and middle schools seem slated for expenditures of $10M - $30M or more. It will be important to calculate the "cost per student."

Observer said...

First off, I would say that anyone who does not see the danger in housing rival communities in one building, ala a "new" Westinghouse, is completely out of touch with the reality of neighborhood troubles. It's almost disturbing. Is the idea that such a fantasy can be dreamed up by a third party that does not look at such things, and the staff who has to work there can deal with it? As long as you can wipe your hands of it and pass it off to someone else, it's a grand plan? That's hooey. You must love the smell of napalm in the morning.
The Roosevelt administration is really in essence the Roosevelt Corporation. It's all about economics.
Schenley will never be revisited and in fact, I would believe that its sale is likely on the drawing board somewhere. Reizenstein for sale...or move the central administrative offices there? Either way, a building will bring money to the coffers.
It's an incredible time in this city. We've lost a great many students and families over the years. Bringing in third parties to make recommendations takes the idea of going to a neighborhood school--always a Pittsburgh priority---out of the equation. That's nice and prudent...and guarantees even more population losses.
Maybe the Promise WILL be able to provide no strings attached free college rides after all.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Would love to see a full-blown discussion on the blog in another thread about the perception of a civil war in our neighborhoods and how it is impossible for some to fathom a merger among different neighborhoods.

What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

Word is that the recommendation to move IB to Reizenstein is not "real"- it was just made to cover for the wasteful decision to move IB to Reizenstein in the first place.

Questioner said...

That would explain why the consultant couldn't give a very good explanation on why Reizenstein was chosen over Peabody- an explanation based on relative sizes of the buildings didn't make sense- and why the cost of an auditorium was not factored in to the cost of Reizenstein (the cost would have been just too ridiculous). After all, the IB committee wasn't even allowed to consider Reizenstein because it was too expensive.

So may we please have the real plan with the real projected costs.

Anonymous said...

Qestioner and anon, I was thinking the same thing regarding reizenstein being chosen for the IB site. My theory is that now MR can say, "Look, I am listening to the community (ie IB Site Selection Committee)"

Mark Rauterkus said...

Mark Roosevelt said on the air with KDKA Radio today that there are more kids within the Peabody feeder program that go to the I.B. school than choose to go to Peabody.


He also called both CAPA and the IB School 'gems.' Nothing newsworthy there, but a tiny recap.

Did live blog it (FWIW, and it aint much).

Going to Cupples tonight (WED) for soccer games, city championships, 5 pm girls, 7 pm boys. Wee!

Questioner said...

Yes, CAPA and IB have long been gems in the PPS system.

solutionsRus said...

MR said, "there are more kids within the Peabody feeder program that go to the I.B. school than choose to go to Peabody."

That may be true, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that there are about 400 kids that are attending Peabody and are going to be displaced, sent out of their neighborhood to go to school, not by choice as the IB students do, but by force. I realize that tough choices have to be made due to under utilization of our schools, but the chaos in the east end is a result of an untested theory that small, boutique schools are some kind of answer to PPS troubles.

It was quite interesting to me that at the last finance committee meeting, Dara Ware-Allen pointed out that the 2009-10 budget called for cutting social workers and counselors. I cannot think of a better example of how the administration is missing the big picture regarding mending our broken schools. Keep asking the tough questions, Dara!

Questioner said...

As always, the statistics that are thrown out need to be examined closely since data is used more to justify decisions already made than to reach decisions based on the data.

For starters, is the comparison between kids in the IB program in grades 6 thru 12 v. kids at Peabody in grades 9 thru 12? More grades more kids.

Second, there are about 250 kids in IB 9/10 and about 400 kids at Schenley 11/12. Even if all the 9/10 kids are from the Peabody feeder and half the kids in 11/12 are IB and all of those are in the Peabody feeder, that is only 450 kids. Most of the 475 or so in Peabody are from the Peabody feeder. So the numbers are probably pretty close.

Third, Peabody like most of the other non-themed schools has not been paid much attention. A strong program with vo-tech opportunities would be likely to attract many Peabody feeder students who are now dropping out or attending charter schools.

Again, we can use data to justify decisions already made, or we can use it to reach good decisions.

Anonymous said...

There ARE good kids in the East End who are basically shut ins thanks to the outrageous feuds going on there over drug/turf wars. I love the idea of "not giving into them" in merging all of these feuding neighborhoods into one. Pure brilliance. Unfortunately, what such a move will bring is violence on top of violence in and outside of the school itself--and a great number of those good kids who simply will NOT attend the school thanks to fear.
I try to comprehend the arrogance behind such a decision. It's almost as if the powers that be see the feuds as being something akin to a minor annoyance that will soon go away.
Sorry, not true.

Anonymous said...

And it's just not true that all of the IB kids are from the Peabody feeder pattern -- I can know many that are not (and also many that are -- but not all of them!)

Obviously there are more kids from that feeder pattern than might be expected, just as, I am sure, there are more Peabody kids at Allderdice than might be expected. I know kids from the Westinghouse feeder pattern who take all sorts of public transit to go to Brashear...so they can take CAS classes.

We KNOW that Peabody and Westinghouse are sort of "last resort" schools -- that's what we were hoping would change -- not that you'd just try to keep losing them other schools and districts and then shove what's left into one building with 6-8 graders as well.

Observer said...

I'm a little confused as to what you mean by this, anon:

"...not that you'd just try to keep losing them other schools and districts and then shove what's left into one building with 6-8 graders as well."

I also believe the figures where Peabody's population is concerned, your knowledge notwithstanding. It only stands to reason that the population in the East End has gone somewhere. It sure isn't Peabody, nor is it Westinghouse.
I'm familiar with Brashear and Carrick, and I can tell you that I could probably count on two hands the number of East Enders in attendance there.

Anonymous said...

I mean that Peabody and Westinghouse have been bleeding students for years. Two high schools with less than 400 students in attendance each day? I've heard numbers less than 200 in attendance daily at W'house in recent past years.

The current administration has done nothing to stop that trend specific to those schools in the last 5 years that I can see. It's almost as though they hoped for them to fail so that they could get rid of them or reconstitute them. I imagine they hoped for it to be all glamorous magnet/choice programs... Instead of combining Peabody and Westinghouse together and adding in two schools' worth of 6-8th graders.

These are the same 6-8th grades moved in the last closing, restructuring (of Reizenstein)-- that one went so well the first year that kids from the upper grades building of Faison were moved out of their building due to behavior (and neighborhood?) issues...

It's hard for me to believe that things are so much better now that having 7 grades, coming from 4 different schools into one building will work well without major planning, changes, incredibly strong leadership and tons of support from the administration.

In other words, I'm not optimistic.

Observer said...

Thanks anon. I agree with your comments and read them wrong previously. Shame that no one thinks of kids and families.

Anonymous said...

Second, there are about 250 kids in IB 9/10 and about 400 kids at Schenley 11/12. Even if all the 9/10 kids are from the Peabody feeder and half the kids in 11/12 are IB and all of those are in the Peabody feeder, that is only 450 kids. Most of the 475 or so in Peabody are from the Peabody feeder. So the numbers are probably pretty close.

And all of the 9/10 kids aren't from the feeder pattern -- mine included! There are several kids new this year that have older sibs who went to Allderdice, as well.

Likewise, if they've got 60 kids in IB in 11th and 12th (taking more than one IB class, say), they've done a great job...but that's not half the kids. There are clearly still Schenley's old feeder pattern kids there -- that was the whole point of moving them and there is no other "neighborhood" option for those kids. So, 60 plus 60 and I'll even spot them another 30 = 150 IB kids in 11/12, a very generous estimate. I know kids come from the South Side, North Side and East End not Peabody, in those groups.

Similarly, the 9th grade year has some kids whose older sibs went to Allderdice and whose families still live in its feeder pattern. Not Peabody kids.

I think it's another example of "IB is popular with Highland Park and other Peabody neighborhood parents" which is true, turning into "only Peabody feeder pattern parents choose IB" -- which is totally false.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the repeated paragraph there. Clearly proofreading was impaired.

Questioner said...

Agreed that many IB students come from outside the Peabody feeder. The initial numbers were just to show that even assuming almost all IB was from the Peabody feeder, there were most likely about as many kids from the Peabody feeder at Peabody.

And of course some Peabody feeder kids will go to Carrick or Brashear for the magnets. But what is rarely mentioned is that only about 50% of kids in the Carrick feeder for example go to Carrick HS!

Observer said...

Well, the junior and senior IB numbers will be changing as the program becomes one within the next two years. You're right, of course, about the current situation. And again, knowing what I do about some of the populations, your assessment is right on target.

Anonymous said...

I really do not believe the report recommendations will be followed, particularly when it comes to merging groups from Westinghouse and Peabody. For many years, through three superintendents there was a Mom who attended district meetings every year just to remind whomever listened that certain changes should never occur. She was talking about the Westinghouse and Peabody students never being merged. These consultants are "not from around here" and their suggestions are only suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Carrick especially has had a decline in the past ten years in terms of numbers, but let's tell it like it is where the magnets at CHS and BHS are concerned---they are comprised almost entirely of kids who would be normally going there anyway.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:53, I hope that mother is tenacious and fierce. At no time under the leadership of Louise Brennan, Dale Frederick, John Thompson or Helen Faison could we ever believe that the concerns of the community would be completely ignored.

Schenley changed all that.

To discard the incredible amount of trouble that would come with such a maneuver--putting all of these kids into one school--is simply insane. And yet...something I would never put past the people currently in charge.