In a study session Tuesday night, the board heard that two schools are expected to receive an influx of students by 2016 as a result of transit-oriented housing projects. The district's goal is to keep elementary schools at about 600 students, although board members agreed with the consultants, LPA Inc., that a range of 600 to 700 would be acceptable.
The district will explore options, which include buying a site, which was not included in the $34 million price tag, and building the new school or expanding existing schools. School Board Member Valerie Arkin also suggested expanding Hart Middle School to educate kindergarteners through eighth-graders.
"Whether we build that separate school, we still have to house these kids and that would cost the same amount," Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi told the board.
Ahmadi, who has been an elementary school principal, supports keeping elementaries at around 600 students.
Beyond the cost of building a new elementary school, it would run about $600,000 a year to operate, which led to requests for more information from the board.
"I think we need to explore our options," said Board Member Jamie Hintzke.
Arkin was also uncertain about whether the district needs a new school. If the district decides not to build a school, boundaries would have to be adjusted for the new students.
Tuesday night was the first time the board discussed the possibility of a bond issue to cover costs of the school and other improvements.
"That would be a decision going forward, whether we're going out for a bond," said Board President Joan Laursen. "That would be a decision for a later time."
A bond measure would have to be approved by voters.
Nearly $500 million in improvements were recommended after a yearlong facilities master plan study, which looked at schools and conducted surveys of principals, teachers and parents.
LPA Inc. came up with three levels of improvements at schools, which could be phased in and implemented over time. Level one would be of the lowest cost and highest impact and totals more than $92 million, although board members asked that category be broken down to separate immediate needs -- dubbed "squeaky and leaky" by Board Member Jeff Bowser. That first level would include district-wide technology improvements and building improvements at elementary, middle and high schools.
A second level of medium cost, short range priorities recommended by LPA, which includes new classrooms at the four oldest elementary schools and building a new elementary school, would run more than $210 million, and a third level, high-cost and long range, would cost more than $188 million and would include classrooms, landscape and field improvements.
Not all the improvements are likely to occur, at least within the 10-year time frame covered in the facilities plan.
"The master plan is not a line in the sand," said Jim Kisel, LPA's director of school planning.
In terms of funding, the district can expect to bring in a little more than $21 million from developer fees over the next 10 years, according to the report, and could add nearly $12 million by using funds it has on hand, including liquidating the Sycamore fund, which was created by the sale of land. That money would have to be used to buy land for a new school.
The district could also bring in a potential of $2.3 million for new construction and nearly $13.5 million from the state, although that money is uncertain, according to Ann Feng-Gagne, who worked with LPA to come up with demographic and financing information.
Another option that could bring in some revenue would be to sell the land that houses the district offices, warehouses and Village High School and relocate them to the 13-acre Neal property on the east side of town, which is already owned by the district. How much it could earn from that sale is dependant on market conditions. Feng-Gagne estimated it would cost $37.7 million to relocate, and the sale of property could bring in between $18.5 million and nearly $67.7 million.
Although the district could sell the Neal property, it would have to repay money contributed by the state for its purchase. It is not being considered as a location for a new school because it is outside the area where growth is expected to occur.
The district will also have to repay nearly $12 million in outstanding debt during the 10-year time frame included in the LPA study, and about $14.5 million between 2021 and 2030. That debt would have to be addressed -- although not necessarily paid off -- while dealing with the growth it expects.
Bowser noted that while the influx of students isn't happening yet.
"We have time to plan," he said. "The growth is going to happen over time."