Projects will address explosive growth


Following the passage of the November Bond Measure, our team has been hard at work completing preliminary tasks that will allow for timely construction of the high school expansion and our new schools in Area 59. Going through all the required steps of land use planning is a learning process, to say the least. This month, I would like to give community members a brief update of our progress.

The Sherwood High School expansion planning is proceeding very well. Architects from DOWA have met many times with a school Design Team and completed a "big picture" concept plan. Since the conclusion of this important step, the architectural team has followed up with several in depth meetings with smaller focus groups, comprised of teachers and specialists from instructional areas of the school. With these smaller groups they have fine-tuned area design into more detailed drawings to account for important instructional and functional features. The overall school package is really beginning to shape up.

All of the design features are vetted carefully through a series of outside interests and agencies. After extensive study and work by DKS Traffic Consultants, we have completed plans for increased traffic flow and reconfigured the entrance and exits onto Meinecke. Another important part of our work is to provide for safety with fire suppression and plans for emergency vehicle-access with TVFR. Federal and state requirements also pose strict regulations for water runoff treatment, which is carefully reviewed with Clean Water Services. Additionally we have completed the preliminary plans for water, sewer, and electrical delivery with the City Planning Department.

Last Tuesday we shared our initial plans with the Sherwood Planning Commission. The Commissioners seemed to be pleased with the overall design features and improvements that are planned with the expansion.

One of the exciting developments that will unfold in the next two months will be the demolition of McNeil House, the older residential structure on Meinecke that houses our District Technology Services. Removal of this structure will allow Skanska Construction to go to work immediately after school is out in June, saving valuable time. This initial phase will involve a major overhaul and construction of new parking on the north side of the high school. I am certain our students, staff and patrons will love the large increase in parking and improved access with additional entry and exit lanes.

This development could not be possible without the great collaborative sprit of our City leaders, specifically City Manager Ross Schultz. The new City Hall has some available space that can house our technology team during this time of transition, shaving time off the construction project. Ultimately, this will save significant dollars for taxpayers. Equally important, key staff from the City and District are working on shared technology supports between the two organizations. We believe there are probably many economies of delivery through shared and combined services. Similar to other joint ventures with the City and District, we simply believe we should do all we can to deliver more to our community by sharing and economizing valuable resources.

Our high school projects are proceeding very much on schedule. Initial estimates on costs are favorable. We expect an intensive construction season this summer, with targeted work throughout the next school year. Our community can expect the look of the high school to begin changing dramatically beginning this summer.

We are also encouraged by the major work associated with the new elementary and middle schools to be constructed in Area 59. The last two months have been marked by extensive collaborative efforts with heavy emphasis on the land use planning process.

Throughout the month of January surveyors have studied and delineated the land identified to site the two new schools. There are a total of seven properties that will be directly impacted by the construction of the new schools. Many of these properties have multiple owners; prior to surveying, the District worked with these interests to obtain access approval to survey the land.

There are several spin-offs of the surveying process. The discovery of wetlands creates several additional steps, including formal delineation by wetland specialists, and plans for mitigation and enhancement. This also means additional contact and approval with the Department of State Lands, and again, Clean Water Services. We are required to examine and verify core land samples, vegetation, and historical water runoff patterns. This work continues throughout the coming weeks.

With the bulk of the surveying process complete, we have retained an independent appraiser to determine the objective fair market value of the land. Throughout the planning process over the last eighteen months, the District has abided by two commitments. The first goal is to avoid displacing any property owners from their homes.

The second is to be fair and transparent with respect to property values. Knowing the extremely high demand for developable land in our community, we have committed to paying the fair market value for residential land. As a result, each property will be appraised only for that portion to be purchased by the District at residential value.

In addition to the surveying and appraisal process, extensive planning work for the two schools is underway. Similar to the high school expansion, we have a Design Team that has completed an initial concept design. Architects have followed up with focus groups at the elementary and middle school and are beginning work on the deeper design details. There is a general sense of excitement with the unfolding shape and feel of the new schools.

On Wednesday of this week, we attended a pre-application meeting with representatives from the City and County Planning Departments. I counted 19 professionals seated around the table representing various departments, planning, and District interests. We reviewed proposed streets, traffic, bus lanes, water, sewer, storm water, emergency access, parking, and a variety of other issues. There is still much work to be done, but we are pleased that both City and County staff are meeting with our team early in the process to help us stay ahead of our proposed schedule.

The next few months will be a pivotal time for the new middle and elementary schools. We hope to initiate purchase discussions and agreements with property owners soon after the appraisals are completed. Design plans will move to a much more concrete and specific detail. DOWA will attend a Work Session on February 28th and share detailed cost estimates. This information will allow the Board and District leaders to make decisions that will keep us within budget while guaranteeing quality structures that will stand the test of time.

We are highly motivated to deliver these projects with transparency and the highest degree of accountability. The District is accepting applications for a Citizen's Oversight Committee, a small group of volunteers who will meet monthly to review projects, cost, and schedules associated with the bond measure. The role of this committee is to provide additional accountability by reviewing progress and reporting to the Board. Applications will be accepted on-line or at the District Office through March 12.