The firm that is chosen to design the method for evaluating the physical condition of school buildings also will be charged with holding regional trainings for school district personnel and their architects or engineers in how to use it. “We’re looking for someone to come in with a methodology and to work with us on that and to develop a training protocol,” Duncan explained.
For the past five years or so, school building assessments reflected a blend of systems – a longstanding one by KDE that rated facilities on a 1–5 scale, and a newer model developed by the Parsons Commercial Technology Group and MGT of America. Funding for that latter system stretched only as far as a third of the state’s school buildings – which were evaluated under the private firms’ auspices – and was not capable of being updated.
Somerset Independent Early Childhood Center
(Photo courtesy of RossTarrant Architects)
The new process developed by the vendor will provide an “easily maintainable” standard scoring methodology for assessing buildings; mechanisms for tracking building condition through district facility plans and construction projects; and a way for districts to enter their own data. KDE wants the system’s data to be folded into its own Facilities Planning and Construction application.
“What we want is something that can be completed and become part of the planning process for the district facility plan. It would be an ongoing process for us,” Duncan said. “Over time, our intent would be to have every school run through the methodology so we have a constantly updated inventory of schools.”
One significant aspect of the new process will be the inclusion of educational suitability as part of the building evaluation. Educational suitability gauges how well the structure meets modern needs for teaching and learning. The Parsons system devised this lens through which a building is evaluated, but it was criticized in some local district quarters for being too subjective.
However, Duncan said, “A lot of districts felt like educational suitability should still be in there.” The request for proposals requires the new system to have “a quality assurance element,” she said, which is designed to remove any subjectivity.
The Parsons method also evaluated how well a building could accommodate technology needs. However, Duncan said it was decided not to include a technology readiness component in the new building assessment process, based on input from the districts, Parsons and the score results from 2011.
The RFP specifically states that the vendor chosen will not perform the onsite building assessments. Having districts and/or their architects evaluate buildings instead of the vendor or KDE could mean additional costs to school systems, Duncan acknowledged.
“But if it ends up with a system where they have a better handle on the current state of their facilities inventory and funding that is needed for new or renovated facilities, then in the long run I think it’ll benefit them,” she said.
Duncan pointed out districts generally already pay their architects to help in the facilities planning process, which is required every four years. She said she anticipates districts that are scheduled to update their facilities plan in the near future may end up evaluating all their buildings using the new methodology, while other districts may be able to spread out their updates over time.
The 2016 legislature stipulated that KDE would provide lawmakers with a list of buildings evaluated through the new process by Oct. 1 of this year. That list will not cover all school buildings, similar to the 2011 facilities update funded by the 2010 legislature. “We’re going to need some kind of sample or first run in order to meet the October deadline for the LRC (Legislative Research Commission) to report out the classifications,” Duncan said.
That sample may take the form of districts choosing a building or buildings in the worst shape to be evaluated under the new system, she said.
When it appropriated the funding, the legislature also required an updated list of evaluated buildings to be submitted by Oct. 1 of all odd-numbered years in the run-up to the budget sessions that would come the following January.