Redistricting won’t solve overcrowding letter

Letter to Chad Green and Mark Medford after Redistricting committee meeting:

Dear Sirs,

I attended the attendance zone meeting last night as a non-participating member and was surprised at the updated enrollment projections.  Page 4 of the Oct 4 handout shows attendance levels that appear to put the enrollments about 2 years ahead of the December 2016 YCSD facilities master plan.

Additionally, the redistricting consultant work appears to focus on the building sizes rather than the instructional sizes, and also is still unclear as to the goals.   For instance, specification number one in the redistricting process is “Realign school attendance zone areas so the distribution of students matches the instructional capacity or the building capacity”  — you folks spent a lot of time and effort over the last year or so explaining the need to use instructional capacity rather than the misleading building capacity.  To consider reverting to building capacities for the redistricting decisions confuses the issue and uses the inferior metric you spent the last year disparaging.

That the elementary system is already at 93% of instructional capacity guarantees that even if redistricting boundaries and transportation was not a constraint, any redistricting plan will certainly overcrowd schools above the ideal of 85-90% capacity. (If you are thinking that the goal should be 100% of instructional capacity, as implied by the tables in the FMP and consultants presentation, consider that you can’t move surplus 4th graders into under-enrolled kintergarden and 5th grade classes, and that the middle and high school systems are at about 75% instructional capacity.)

The touchstones that I’d test the redistricting plans against is how well it distributes the overcrowding above 90% instructional capacity relative to the facilities, and how the solutions impact the facilities compliance with state standards.  This process of rehashing building capacity vs instructional capacity, and K-5 vs pre-K-5 enrollments vs building capacity and instructional capacity looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

From what I saw last night, you are being overly optimistic that future enrollment will be lower than expected and that the Marquis school will be an adequate solution to overcrowding over your 6 year planning period.

The fact that YES has substandard facilities, temporary trailers, and overcrowding at the 111% level after the 8+ years of planning for the new elementary school shows that the county has done a poor job of oversight.  The fact that the current plans are inadequate to bring the system-wide elementary enrollments to less than 90% of instructional capacity indicates a poor job of planning for the future.

Please, show me I’m wrong.

Dave

Advertisements

YCSD Redistricting doesn’t solve overcrowding in its elementary schools

The proposed redistricting plans do not solve the overcrowding problems at Yorktown Elementary and other schools in York County.

York County posted some modification plans of the attendance zones for the elementary schools for the 2017 April 17 special meeting which seems to show that moving the zones will solve the overcrowding problem.  However, in the analysis they present, they revert to using the building capacity numbers rather than the instructional capacity numbers the School Division put forward last year.

Using the 2016 instructional capacities with the proposed redistricting plans gives the results below.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 12.33.22 PM

(Excel spreadsheet:YCSD_redistricting)

I’ve highlighted the overcrowded elementary schools with enrollments above the level of 85-90% of instructional capacity that Dr. James spoke of as the ideal range of instructional capacity utilization. Note that the WMES numbers include the in-process addition.

Looking at the numbers for the proposed plans, several of the schools currently in or below the ideal 85-90% range will be pushed up to nearly 100% of utilization of instructional capacity.

See these resources:

2017 April 17 Exec Summary of Attendence Zone Changes

2016 May 9 Instructional Capacity Presentation

Questions for the BOS and YCSD

I asked these questions in email, at the March 20 School Board Meeting (video) and at the March 21 Board of Supervisors meeting (video at 56:30).


Do you know what it would cost or what it would take to get the schools to meet state standards?

Do you know what it would cost or what it would take to get the overcrowding down to the 85-90% level?

Do you know what it would cost or what it would take to provide adequate school resources to cover the planned developments?

If you don’t know what it would take to provide adequate resources, you aren’t doing a good job of oversight.

The Marquis site has a usable lot size of 9.7 acres, per Mark Carter. (York County Elementary Usable Lot Sizes)  A 700-core capacity elementary school requires 11 acres of usable lot size, per the state DOE standards. (see here)  The new site does not meet state standards for a 700 student core capacity school.

Dr. James presented a projection of 5924 students in 5876 seats of “revised instructional capacity” as 101% overcrowding.  (2016 May 9)  With a full build out the Marquis school to 700 students, this is a projection of 5924/(5876+700)=90.1%, which is at the top end of the 85-90% range, and that assumes there is no new development in York county before the Marquis school is built out.  Even at 700 seats, there isn’t enough excess capacity planned to reduce overcrowding to acceptable levels.  With Marquis at 500, it is 92.9%.

Yorktown elementary has trailers parked on its two hard surface playgrounds, no librarian, and has had class sizes of 37 students.  We are currently providing inadequate, substandard schooling.

I don’t trust the planning that got us into the state we are in, and from looking at the current plans, it really doesn’t seem like the board is aiming to do better.

I fear that you do not know what it would take to fix these problems, and that the school board has not provided a plan to cover these necessities.

What I want you to do now is to direct the school division to plan to meet state standards, to eliminate overcrowding, and to cover developments already approved by the county.  If you expect any additional growth in the next few years, you should include additional planned capacity to cover it.  We should aim to provide enough capacity for 85% utilization rather than the already overcrowded 90.1% or 92.9% utilization provided by the 500 or 700 seat Marquis school plan.

YCSD’s mission — Provide Adequate Resources?

Comments at 2017 Jan 23 YCSD School Board Meeting as prepared:

My parents and few others have asked me what I want to get out of standing up here.  I would like you to provide adequate resources to enable our children to thrive.

York County School Division recently ran several Strategic Planning Forums to examine and revise the strategic plan (YCSD Mission, (flyer) Goals, Objectives and Strategic Plans).  I participated in the Grafton Session on Jan 13th.

The most recent status update is the 2016 Strategic Plan Update which identifies a number of the goals and sub-objectives and correlates these with metrics and assessments.  Part of the visioning exercise was identifying changes to the objectives.  In light of the overcrowding and inadequate resources, I looked at the mission, goals and objectives for something addressing the responsibility of YCSD to provide adequate resources to meets state and federal standards and to avoid overcrowding.  None of the objectives seems to capture this idea, instead prescribing standards that the students and teachers must meet.

The closest items were under the Goal #5 “he York County School Division will maintain efficient, effective, service-oriented operations that support student achievement in safe, secure environments”:

  1. Objective: Customer needs will be met or exceeded by Operations Staff members. Customer service surveys will be conducted by November 1 of each year. Survey results will be used to support the provision of efficient, effective, service-oriented operations.
  2. Objective: Staff will create a ten-year facility master plan and a proposed capital improvement program aimed at maintaining safe, high-quality facilities. Annual building inspections, roof surveys, data relating to work orders, revised construction cost projections, and updated long-term enrollment projections will be used to identify needed adjustments.
  3. Objective:  Staff will support safe, secure educational environments. Examples of activities relating to this objective include the following actions: collaborating with local public safety agencies; maintaining appropriate administrative staffing; conducting annual maintenance of surveillance cameras and access control; reviewing/refining crisis management plans annually; and participating in safe schools training.

I suggested they add an objective for the YCSD to provide adequate facilities meeting state and standards; and another objective to reduce overcrowding to the 85-90% level.

I do not think YCSD meets these objectives.  Overcrowding of the elementary system is at the 97% level overall, which makes it impossible to redistrict schools into the 85-90% level.  Schools on the North end of the county are overcrowded at the 143%, 113, and 115% levels.  These burdens on inadequate sites make it impossible to meet state standards, like the complete lack of outdoor hard surface play areas at YES, as compared to the state standard requirement of two.

I would like you to develop a strategic plan that provides adequate resources to enable our children to thrive.  Your strategic planning since 2013 hasn’t accomplished that, and with the current CIP and communications between the board and BOS, the future looks bleak.

You’ve made tradeoffs between adequate facilities and limited resources, settling for a 9.7 acre usable lot size for a core 700 student school which would require 11 acres.  Inadequate site size at the existing school makes the parking and drop-off management complicated and dangerous, necessitating future, expensive redesigns to correct problems that could have been avoided in the initial design.  Sharing sites with other programs might looks like a cost efficiency, but it puts additional burdens on limited lot sizes.

The Strategic Plan’s Mission, Goals, and Objectives should provide guidance to organization members make decisions, tradeoffs, and plans consistent with the organizations values.  The current plan makes demands of the students and teachers without committing to providing adequate resources.

I know three families who’ve avoided moving to Yorktown because of the elementary schools.

In the past year, you’ve compromised and deferred significant amounts of maintenance and improvements at no apparent cost, trading plans for adequate resources for compliance with a weak revenue growth model, and encouraging the BOS to cut your budgets even further. Is the demographic, development, and depreciation models so inferior to economic model that this is a good idea?

When I asked about the county budget planning specifics, Jeffrey Wassmer and Neil Morgan said the numbers are “placeholders”, and “a plan is a plan” to express the uncertainty in the out years.

The long term CIP should have “placeholders” that provide adequate resources to meet state standards and reduce overcrowding to 85-90%.

What I want out of the strategic plan, the CIP and my time standing up here is an plan, one where you take responsibility to provide adequate resources for our children to thrive.

York county is planning for decay rather than growth

My comments at the 2016 November 15 BOS meeting  (video posted in the video archive ):

The new elementary school is inadequate.  At 500 seats, it does not provide the capacity needed to cover the enrollment expected by the development plans already on the books.  At a 9.7 acre usable lot size, as in the email from Mark Carter that I forwarded to you, the proffered Marquis site is substandard for a 700-seat core capacity school.

On March 1st, Neil Morgan presented the 10-year historical funding average of 6.7M/year. (see Neil Morgan’s March 1 presentation)  That could be adequate to offset decay on 250M worth of infrastructure on a standard 40 year depreciation schedule, but with 20 schools, each worth more than 25M each, York County Schools has more than a half billion worth of infrastructure, and we aren’t keeping up.  This is a recipe for decay and substandard schools.   Our entire elementary school system is currently at 97% capacity, with the most stressed schools operating at 113-143% capacity. (See Dr. James May 9 presentation)  Redistricting to get the YCSD schools into the 85-90% range is impossible with the system-wide load already at 97%.  At Yorktown elementary with 115% capacity, the school has substandard parking, substandard lot size, a substandard cafeteria, and substandard hard-surface play areas.  Both of its play areas have temporary buildings parked on them until the new school comes on line. How can you expect YES to function as an effective magnet school if it is already so far above capacity? And the proposed CIP extends the modular building leases out another two years to 2021.  (See FY2018 proposed CIP  p11.)

I’ve told the school board should it ask for more from the county, but from what I’ve been told, the county directed the school division to limit its plans to match the county’s economic projections under the no new revenue model. Specifically with last year’s deferrals, they were directed to ignore the added costs of inflation and decay. If you were to ask a roofing contractor to defer a quote for two years and hold to the same price, they’d laugh at you and tell you it could cost 20% more.  If you direct the School Division to make unrealistic assumptions to meet your economic targets, rather than tell it to ask for enough to maintain the schools, we’re doomed to continue to have substandard schools. With inadequate funding, it is not a Capital Improvements Plan, it is a Capital Decay Plan.

Since 2009 we’ve known that today’s level of school enrollment was in the works, and yours and the school divisions funding and planning produced the current dismal level of overcrowding and substandard schooling.  This unacceptable outcome should not have been a surprise.

This six-year plan does not cover the enrollment projections already on the books.  The Waller Mill addition and the 500 seat Marquis school will only bring the system down to 93% capacity, still too high for rezoning to bring the schools below 90%.   And that’s ignoring adding any capacity for new development not yet on the books. Are you folks asking good enough questions? Do you understand the implications of your decisions?

Your central job is supposed to be planning and oversight, but from the plans so far, it looks like you are planning for continued substandard schools and continued decay of the York County school system.

Note Thomas Shepperd’s comments on proffers, lobbyists, state delegates & votes at 54:30 in https://yorkcountyva.swagit.com/play/07312017-886

York County needs to ask for more

My remarks as prepared for the 2016-10-24 School Board Meeting (w/ video):

York County Schools are overcrowded and substandard, and the planning we’ve done since 2009 has produced this situation, so we need to ask for more now and in the future.  I’ve discussed some of this in email with you all, and I want to note a few points on where we are, what the current plan is, and where we are headed.

On May 9th, Dr. James presented the current and planned levels of overcrowding at York Elementary Schools (see this).  Overall  we’re at 97% capacity and projected to go to 101% capacity, without including the new school.  The target crowding level is 85% to 90%.    Dividing the projected enrollment by 85% to reach the required capacity ( 5924/0.85=6970 seats) is a basic 6th grade math problem.  Subtracting from that the projected capacity to get the required additional capacity of 1,093 is a 3rd grade math problem. (6970-5876=1093 additional instructional capacity.)  We should be asking for 1093 seats of additional elementary instructional capacity to accommodate the developments already planned.  A 500 seat school is not enough.

The enrollment at 97% total elementary capacity that we are currently at makes it impossible to do any rezoning to solve overcrowding and and bring all the rezoned schools into the 85-90% range, so the schools like Yorktown Elementary (with a 608 instructional capacity) end up running at 115% (with 699 students. ) At 115% capacity, YES does not have enough resources to manage its own problems internally.

Doing the 6th grade math,  this means YES needed more than the modular building to bring capacity to ideal levels.  169 to 214 additional seats of instructional capacity since last year to bring it into the ideal range. Adding the modular is an improvement, but it isn’t enough.  Right now, YES has substandard parking, substandard hard surface playgrounds (zero), and substandard usable lot size (230 students).  The county calculates YES’s usable lot size at 6.3 acres (see here),  produces a site capacity of only 230 students.  The undersized site makes it so the temporary buildings use up all the state mandated hard surface playgrounds, and also require a permanent zoning variance to push the Head Start trailer over the building lines.  YES can’t manage its own problems internally when saddled with the current 115% capacity. Let alone the projected overcrowding of 137%.  To rezone the projected 834 students (or 137%)  down to the 85-90% level, you’d need to rezone 205-240 students away from YES.

Now 20 schools at about $25M each is about a half billion worth of school infrastructure that YCSD has to maintain. On a 40 year depreciation schedule, that is about half of a school worth of maintenance or 12.5M$ each year just to offset decay. And that’s without attempting to finance a new school out of delayed maintenance.  From what I understand, the county directed YCSD to ask for less by pushing most maintenance off another two years, lowballing delayed maintenance by ignoring inflation and decay,  and shortening the CIP plan to 6 years to push things off the end of the planning window.

In 2009, seven years ago, YCSD started planning the new school to cover the expected  development, and that lead time wasn’t near enough to offset 7 percentage points worth of overcrowding we are experiencing.   In light of past performance, can you honestly say that the 6 year plan the with the 500-700 seat school in middle that you’ve delivered the Board of Supervisors is going to bring the York Elementary School System up to state standards?

The Board of Supervisors has not given you everything you ask for, but you should certainly be asking for enough to cover the planned development on the books with schools at state standards. You should also make it clear how shortchanging your plan will continue to produce substandard schools.
————————-

Overall with 5457 K-5 students, we’re at 97% capacity and projected to go to 101% capacity with 5924 students, without including the new school.  The target crowding level is 85% to 90%.    Dividing 5924 by 85% to reach the required capacity of 6970 seats is a basic 6th grade math problem.  Subtracting from that the projected capacity of 5876 to get the required additional capacity of 1093 is a 3rd grade math problem.  We should be asking for 1093 seats of additional elementary instructional capacity to accommodate the developments already planned.  A 500 seat school isn’t enough

York County Elementary Usable Lot Sizes

The York County Elementary School system has inadequate lot sizes compared to the current and planned enrollment and development.   With a current enrollment of 5457 planned to increase to 5924, the combined lot size capacities add up to 3090, projected to go to 3560.  These numbers are based on the State Board of Education guidelines and Mark Carter’s buildable areas at the 11 school sites.

The York County BOS recently approved a new lot for a new elementary school in the Marquis development (See Oct 4 BOS Meeting Minutes.)  Prior to the meeting I noticed that the published 14.74 acre lot size, as compared to the state Board of Education standards appeared to be small for an ultimately 700 student school.  For a 700 student school, the VA DOE standards specify a minimum “usable site size” of 11 acres (4 acres + 1 acre per 100 students — See VA DOE school standards)  The “usable site size” is the buildable area on parcel, not the entire, and can be much smaller than the total acreage.

In looking at Yorktown Elementary School, the 14.09 platted area combined with the 50′ setback lines from the ‘RC’ zoning trims the usable area down to about 10.78 acres, or a site capacity of 678 students, and that is before reserving any land dedicated for parks and recreation fields.  Since the Marquis lots aren’t a simple shape like YES’s  rectangle, the usable land on the Marquis site could be much smaller.

The day of the last BOS meeting, I expressed concern about the planned size of the new school relative to the level of overcrowding.  After the meeting I saw the plat plan and followed up with a question about the “usable site size” within the building lines for the Marquis site.    On the 12th, I got the following information back, and it appears to show York County has very small lots for its elementary schools relative to the state standards:

Elementary School  Total Acreage   Building/Parking Pad   *DOE Site
Sites                              /Playgrounds Acreage   Capacity
                                   (approximate)

Bethel Manor            9           6.7                   270
Tabb                   14.8         8.1                   410
Coventry               15           7.8                   380
Mount Vernon           15.7         6.2                   220
Grafton-Bethel         15.7         8.5                   450
Dare                   17.2         8.5                   450
Seaford                19.8         6                     200
Yorktown               14           6.3                   230
Magruder               14           7.3                   330
Waller Mill            14           5.5                   150

Marquis                14.4         9.7                   570

(Table source Chad Green, personal communication. *DOE Site Capacity calculated by David Forrest, using “Building/… Acreage” as “usable site size”, minus 4 acres times 100 students/acre)

For the Marquis site, the 9.7 acres of “Building/Parking Pad/Playgrounds Acreage” appears to provide only enough “usable site area” for a school of 570 children.  Far short of the ultimate planned school size of 700 students.

Like the problems at Yorktown Elementary, a too-small usable site size at Marquis could cause problems, like insufficient parking, awkward bus loading and dropoff, playground, temporary building variances, and other overcrowding issues.