Beachwood City Schools

Beachwood City Schools News Article

Elementary Facilities Project Frequently Asked Questions

How did the architects arrive at Options 1 - 4?

The District’s design team has collected input from school staff, students, parents and residents over several months utilizing a variety of formats including small group meetings, an online and phone community survey, and several public input sessions. Options 1 - 4 are responsive to the wide variety of feedback they have received.

Why is the District pursuing this project now?

Bryden School and Hilltop School were originally built in 1956 and they are now aging, deteriorating school facilities despite timely and sensible upkeep over the years. A 2015 facility study determined that the two elementary schools require major renovations, including replacement of the building systems to stay operational. The master planning team has determined that temporary, "band-aid" repairs no longer meet the long-term needs of the facilities and would be a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

In May 2018, the District attempted to address these aging school buildings through a bond levy (combined at the time with an operating levy) that would have built a consolidated PK-5 school building on the Fairmount site. The bond issue was narrowly defeated, the operating levy was approved overwhelmingly in November 2018, and now, the District has returned to the drawing board with new options for the public to consider that address our outdated elementary buildings.

Why isn’t the District considering a single Preschool - 5 consolidated building?

Triad Research Group’s extensive survey of the Beachwood community clearly demonstrated that a large number of residents are opposed to consolidating seven grade levels (preschool through fifth grade) into a single building. 

What are the downsides of renovation versus new construction?

Renovating Bryden and Hilltop School, each more than 65 years old, demands the replacement of major building systems – exterior and interior walls, HVAC, electric and plumbing, etc. This type of renovation is expensive and often includes the discovery of unforeseen conditions that lead to costly delays and change orders.

Renovating Bryden and Hilltop will require that three grades at a time be relocated for up to two years while construction takes place in their building. This is why the timelines for renovation options are elongated. According to the plan, one grade level would be relocated to the Fairmount building, one at the other elementary building, and one within the high school. We would need to do this twice for a total of four years before all buildings have been renovated.

What are the enrollment trends at Bryden and Hilltop School?

Since the 2015-2016 school year, Beachwood’s elementary enrollment has increased by more than 16%. The architects have accounted for this slow, steady growth in their proposed building square footages. The Board of Education is committed to retaining ownership of all three school sites into the future to be prepared for possible future growth.

Do the construction timelines attempt to minimize disruption to the students and staff?

Yes. The summers between school years would be utilized as much as possible for disruptive construction tasks.

How will this project be funded?

Any of the four options would require the approval of a bond levy by the voters of Beachwood. If approved by the voters, a bond levy functions very similarly to a home mortgage. It allows the District to borrow the funds necessary to pay for the design and construction costs of these project options and pay the lender back the principal with interest for up to 38 years. If passed by the voters, the owner of a median-priced Beachwood home ($450,000) would pay approximately $50 - $55 per month to pay back the borrowed funds.

Beachwood Schools, at the Board of Education’s direction, and under the leadership of Treasurer Michele Mills, has aggressively sought opportunities to refinance its debt payments as well as pay down debt early. These practices, in addition to the District’s impressive Aaa bond rating, the highest possible, thankfully saves millions of taxpayer dollars over the life of a loan.

How does the District maintain its facilities after the initial cost of building them?

Beachwood Schools, like most school districts, collects a small “Permanent Improvement” levy every year. This provides the District the funding for the relatively smaller, ongoing maintenance costs of the facilities and grounds – roof replacements, parking lot replacements, preventive maintenance on HVAC systems, window replacements, and repairs/upgrades to building systems, like tuckpointing on exterior brick walls or retrofitting lights to energy-efficient LEDs.

Are there any advantages of reducing from three school buildings to two?

There are four advantages if an option to reduce from three separate buildings to two is selected:

  • With 80% of Fairmount preschoolers enrolling in Bryden’s kindergarten classes when they turn five years old, creating a PK-Grade 2 school building would reduce that major transition for a large percentage of our youngest learners.

  • One school principal currently leads both Bryden and the Fairmount preschool. This would allow the principal to oversee those grade levels under one roof.

  • Incorporating the Fairmount building into a PK-Grade 2 school building would allow the kindergarten to move into underutilized spaces already existing at the Fairmount building.  This will reduce the costs of construction compared to other options.

  • Reducing from three separate buildings to two will result in modest ongoing operational savings annually, most likely in the neighborhood of $100,000 per year.

Do any of the options being considered include selling school property?

No. The Board of Education is committed to retaining ownership of all school properties. There are no plans to sell any school site for other purposes, such as a housing development. Based on community feedback, none of the options being considered are similar to the 2018 consolidation plan which would have built a PK-Grade 5 building on the Fairmount site.

If Options 1 or 3 are selected, where will students be housed temporarily during renovations of Hilltop and Bryden?

The most likely plan would house a grade level within the Fairmount Preschool, one grade level at the other elementary, and one grade level in a classroom wing at Beachwood High School.  This would have to occur twice for a two-year span of time. Utilizing classroom trailers to house students during renovations is not being recommended by the design team because of their limited availability, excessive cost, and the disruption to students’ and staff’s school experience.

What are the plans for the grounds at each school site?

The District has directed the design team to include new playgrounds, walking paths, blacktop basketball courts, and fields in their plans. These upgrades will be an asset to students and staff during the school day as well as families and other community members in the afternoons and on weekends.

What will take place at the Hilltop Community Recreational Park if Option 3 or 4 is selected?  Will the City of Beachwood run this park?

This design option was responsive to survey feedback from the community that asked the District to use its grounds for more community park space, more youth athletic fields, and more walking paths. The District is collaborating with the City of Beachwood’s Recreation Department around how to best utilize the Hilltop and other school grounds and facilities to support both academic and community recreational programming goalsIf Option 3 or 4 is selected and a community recreational park is created, the City of Beachwood will work with the schools on a shared plan that covers staffing, programming, maintenance, and safety.

Is the Hilltop Community Recreational Park design final?

No. Further community input sessions and collaboration with city officials will take place if Option 3 or 4 is selected. One aspect of the park’s design that isn’t detailed in its draft conceptual drawing is a commitment to make the entire park accessible to patrons of all ages and mobility.

What do the cost estimates for Option 3 and 4 include for the Hilltop Community Recreational Park?

The design team’s cost estimates for Option 3 and 4 include $5 million to be used in the creation of the Hilltop Community Recreation Park. These funds will be used for path and site lighting, field drainage, a new playground, adding bathrooms to the existing Hilltop gym off of a renovated vestibule, and other important improvements.

Why is no option under consideration for a recreational park located on the Bryden site instead of the Hilltop site?

Both the District’s design team and City of Beachwood officials have recommended utilizing the Hilltop site for a community recreational park because its rectangular shape and existing upper fields are better suited to this purpose. By contrast, the Bryden site is not uniformly shaped and contains woods and wetlands. In addition, the Hilltop site is constrained by a single entrance/exit drive.

Did the architects consider increased traffic on Fairmount Boulevard in Option 3 and 4?

Yes. Increased traffic on Fairmount Boulevard is a highly relevant concern. A traffic study commissioned by the District in 2017 recommended ways to successfully handle additional traffic load on Fairmount when a consolidated PK-5 building was being considered. Options 3 and 4 envision a smaller building at the Fairmount site. These recommendations and new strategies developed collaboratively with the traffic bureau of the Beachwood Police Department would be employed to address this concern.

What upgrades are slated for the Fairmount Preschool building?

The Fairmount building is slated for an HVAC system upgrade, new flooring and lighting, interior painting, replacement of the blue metal roof accents, new playgrounds and field upgrades.

Could more recent additions at Hilltop and Bryden be incorporated into any new construction designs at those sites?

Yes, possibly. Both Hilltop and Bryden have sections that were added in more recent decades. If incorporating these additions into the plans for a newly constructed building was determined to be a cost effective and sensible way to reduce costs while successfully meeting the programming needs of students and staff, it would be considered.

Will the District seek LEED certification for the renovated or new buildings?

LEED certification will be studied during the design phase, which will take place if funding is acquired through a bond levy. The District’s last major capital project, the 2010 Beachwood High School renovation, earned LEED status for its energy efficient and environmentally friendly building systems.

Will there be sidewalks serving a school on the Bryden site?

Yes. The City of Beachwood plans a major storm sewer project in the next couple years in the Bryden neighborhood. While this project is being completed, sidewalks are going to be installed and Bryden School will be safely accessed by sidewalks from its surrounding neighborhood at all entrances.

Do the school designs include a greenhouse?

Yes. Hilltop School’s greenhouse will be renovated or replaced under any plan. Each of the school building designs will incorporate spaces, indoor and outdoor, for experiential learning such as that provided by a greenhouseInput gathered from our students and staff demonstrated a strong desire for connections to nature incorporated into the school designs.

What will happen to the community’s polling places?

All four options under consideration retain the three polling places currently used by the community within Beachwood Schools: the gymnasiums at Bryden School, Beachwood High School, and Hilltop School.

What will the District do if a May 2023 bond levy to pursue one of these options fails?

If a bond levy in May 2023 fails, the current facilities and grounds will stay as they are and we will continue to work with the public to develop a master plan that addresses the challenge of aging, deteriorating facilities. The Board of Education would likely approve a revised plan, then place the issue on the ballot again in November 2023. Simply maintaining the status quo is unsustainable and incredibly costly.

What is the process moving forward?

The Board of Education has tasked the design team with narrowing the four options based upon their expertise and the public’s input. They will present two options to the Board at its Monday, November 14 meeting (7 pm @ Board of Education building). The Board will hold a public study session with the design team about their recommendations at a Special Meeting on Thursday, November 17 (7 pm @ Beachwood High School Community Meeting Room). A second study session will be held on Monday, November 28 (7 pm @ Board of Education building). The Board of Education intends to select one of the two options presented and will vote at the December 12 meeting to place a bond levy on the ballot in May 2023 for the Beachwood public’s consideration.

Have a question about the project? Submit questions, comments and feedback HERE.

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