When it comes time for a school district to renovate its facilities and upgrade its pedagogic infrastructure, not all funding sources are apparent nor do all administrators have the insider knowledge to maneuver through complicated processes and get their hands on the money. Recently, however, a number of school districts throughout California have taken the advice of BCA Architects and leveraged additional dollars to turn their expectations of just a simple modernization into a spectacular state-of-the-art enhancement of their facilities.
BCA Architects has effectively boosted school funds for more than six of the school districts they have master-planned over the past year, proving the firm to be one of the most fiscally and efficiently imaginative architectural groups in the field of education. BCA has consistently surpassed the basic needs of school districts and generated impressive funding models through its holistic approach to design, using general obligation bond eligibility, hardship funding, and effective asset management of school-owned real estate to raise district budgets. More importantly, by carrying some of the financial planning burden necessary to increase school improvement revenues, BCA lets the educators focus on educating their Districts’ students while leaving a considerable amount of the complex fund-raising process to the firm. This is extremely beneficial to our smaller sized school districts.
Perhaps one of the most creative solutions the firm has devised to date can be seen in its approach to what was originally intended to be a modernization project for two schools in the Bayshore Elementary School District. During one of the Pivot Learning Partners’ Executive Leadership Center (ELC) programs, one of BCA’s Superintendents in Residence, Edwin Diaz, connected with Bayshore’s, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Audra Pittman, who was looking to capitalize on Prop 39 energy funds to implement a Facilities Master Plan for the district. However, after meeting with Paul Bunton, AIA, CEO of BCA Architects, and learning that the school district had a bonding capacity for a $6,000,000 General Obligation Bond, which if passed, would allow the district to make much more significant upgrades to the two schools within their district, Dr. Pittman decided to present this option to her Board of Trustees. Subsequently, the Governing Board placed a bond measure on the June 2014 ballot which successfully passed with 82% of the community supporting the bond measure.
During the master planning process, BCA studied the current grade level configurations of the Districts two schools. Bayshore Elementary School with a configuration of TK-4th grades, had an enrollment of 203 students while Robertson Intermediate School with a configuration of 5-8th grades, had an enrollment of 173 students. Both schools were significantly underutilized. Evaluating the demographic study of the District, enrollment was anticipated to continue to decline through the end of 2020. Given that neither school has had any significant modernization in their 50+ year life spans, the $6 million bond measure would only scratch the surface in being able to effectively bring these facilities into 21st century learning environments, BCA began to study alternatives. At the same time, Dr. Pittman had an epiphany about how to consolidate their facilities and provide better facilities for her District. Working together with their client, BCA Architects developed a series of options that included the consolidation of the Districts two underutilized schools into one TK-8 facility – with this option, the District would demolish both aging facilities, sell one of their two sites, and construct a new TK-8 21st century learning environment for the District.
After presenting their ideas to the Governing Board, BCA was authorized to embark on a feasibility study that ultimately would bring back a recommendation to develop the Robertson site as a 71 unit residential subdivision and construct a new 600 student TK-8 facility on the Bayshore site. The estimated revenue from the sale of Robertson coupled with the Districts Bond Measure would generate enough funds to design and construct a new 2-story $25 million state of the art educational facility. In addition, should State funding eligibility become available after a pending 2016 Bond Measure, the District will have up to approximately $4 million in additional funding that can be put into endowments for teachers salaries, technology refresh funding, maintenance and operations funds, and other discretionary uses.
Dr. Pittman commented about the Board adopted facilities master plan stating that “The need is there, and the students and staff of our District deserve the very best. We have a strong community, with great students and families, and a dedicated staff. If we are going to compete in our growing global economy, we need to provide only the best for our students, families, staff, and community! By shifting to a brand new TK-8 facility, the best is what our community will get.” She further commented, “BCA Architects are definitely out of the box thinkers in today’s educational arena. They go beyond providing basic architectural services for their clients through their unique understanding of where education is today in our society, and the need to find creative solutions and supplemental funding to be able to provide the best 21st century learning environments for students. They are an outstanding partner to our District.”
Paul Bunton, AIA, commented, “It only makes sense to consolidate the Districts assets and provide one incredible educational facility for the community. Modernizing the Districts 50 year old facilities with a $6 million bond measure would be equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on them and wouldn’t begin to provide the 21st century learning environments needed to meet the required common core standards. In addition the operational savings of running two schools versus one will reduce the demand on the District’s general fund through consolidation of staffing, energy savings, and maintenance reductions, while providing a stronger pedagogical platform for the District.”
Thinking holistically, BCA’s resourceful master planning process guides their districts’ through the myriad of decisions needed to bring a thought based plan to fruition. Their understanding of both the educational process and school funding along with their unstoppable will to provide the very best educational environments makes them a valuable partner to School Districts throughout the State of California.