Here is the second part of our three-day series about an idea to merge Longview’s two high schools at the Monticello/R.A. Long campus. It’s based on an interview with Superintendent Suzanne Cusick and school district consultant Scott Rose. Today’s focus: What will it cost?
Q. What would consolidation cost?
A. Rose, a Portland architect with the DLR Group, estimated that the capital program cost for renovating and repurposing all district buildings to be around $20 million.
• One high school at R.A. Long-Monticello
• Adding athletic fields, gyms and parking to the high school campus
• Converting part of Mark Morris to a vocational-technical-skills center and moving the administration offices and On Track Academy to that campus
• Closing Broadway and moving the preschool to Mark Morris or Northlake
• Converting unused rooms in the buildings, mostly at the elementary level, to “flexible learning spaces.”
Rose emphasized that the $20 million estimate is preliminary and only for planning purposes.
Q. Will a merger reduce maintenance costs?
A. Whether the schools are merged or not, building maintenance and upkeep will continue without major changes, except at Broadway, if it sold. Expenses for big ticket maintenance items — replacing roofs, mechanical systems or windows, for example — are the same regardless of whether there’s a merger, Rose said.
The district has been putting off maintenance, and there’s a backlog of projects totaling $1.56 million at RAL and $5.6 million at Mark Morris, Rose said. In all, the district buildings need about $25 million in major maintenance work.
Saving money isn’t the principal purpose of the merger; it’s improving schools, Rose said.
“While we are looking at ways to reduce operational costs, that is not the driver. Student achievement and being good stewards of district assets are more the driver in this process.”
Q. Are there other savings in the long run, such as staff reductions?
A. The school facilities committee is still estimating potential cost savings and will present them at its public meeting Jan. 10. However, some savings are known:
• Removing the need to shuttle students between R.A. Long and Mark Morris every period for district classes will save more than $100,000 annually.
• Expenses for vocational-technical classes would be shared by private partners such as LCC and businesses, which could sublease space at Mark Morris.
There are no plans to reduce teachers as long as student populations remain relatively stable, Cusick said. Enrollment is expected to decline slightly, so some teaching positions may be lost through attrition. When combining classes from the two high schools frees up a teacher, that teacher will be use to offer other courses in the same content area.
“We do not intend to reduce custodial, support or administrative staff,” Cusick said. “If things stay equal and there isn’t some huge impact on the economy, we will not have job losses.”
Q. Would the district still have to make changes in its buildings even if a merger doesn’t happen?
A. Yes, Cusick said. “If our enrollment had not declined we would have realized we’re not competitive in terms of the tools we are providing — such as technology, infrastructure, state of the art classrooms and flexible learning spaces.”
Q. The merger scenario includes adding two gyms. How would this be paid for? Would the district have to have a bond levy?
A. Converting Monticello-R.A. Long to one campus would most likely be done in several phases, Rose said. Grants, short term loans and a voter-approved bond all likely be used to finance the merger. The district has plenty of “bond capacity” -- a reference to its legal debt limit. Bonds for building Mount Solo Middle School will be paid off in the early 2020s.
Sunday: What would a school merger plan mean for diversity, school loyalties and the three-building middle school model?