Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Building of a New Collierville High School Following the June 16, 2015 Community Meeting
Q: Why not make a smaller magnet school?
A. Considerable research has been done nationally and it finds that 2,000+ is the level at which a high school becomes most efficient and most able to offer the fullest number of programs. With a larger school, we will be able to offer great variety in academics, arts and sports, many specialized to the level that they would not be able to be offered at smaller schools, whatever their focus.
Q: Why not just go to a public vote?
A. A referendum is still an option, but people must enter into that with a few things in mind. A public referendum would be a yes or no vote on a particular amount of money. There will be no option to say I don’t like amount A and vote against it thinking we can then just move to amount B automatically. The funding proposed either fails or passes. If it fails, it is likely not to resurface again for one, two or three years. By then, land may not be available and costs will have certainly gone up. That would mean an even larger tax increase. And, during that time our high school and middle school students will be subject to a more and more crowded environments, making the selection of Collierville as a place to raise and educate children less desirable.
Q: Are you confident you can get public bids for the proposed $145 per square foot construction cost proposed?
A: We, along with our architects, are dedicated to constructing a school that stays within our established budget. We have included in the overall cost of the project, a contingency allowance to address any unexpected issues (ex., unsuitable or bad soils) that may arise during the construction phase.
Q: Every project goes over budget, how much is too much?
A: Yes we are confident of our budget and ability to meet it. We also included some contingencies.
Q: Why is the proposed site for the new high school so far south?
The Board of Education conducted an extensive land use, land availability, land suitability, road disruption, land cost, and neighborhood disruption study in evaluating every potential available tract of land in Collierville. Recognizing a need for 100-plus acres to accomplish the facilities needs and growth contingent, the Board considered nine potential sites that are available to purchase. Keep in mind, some sites you may pass on a regular basis may not be developed yet, but are not for sale by their owners. The available locations were then scored based on 10 considerations: total site costs, visibility, vehicular accessibility, pedestrian accessibility, existing infrastructure, number of off-site improvements needed, distance to city center, environmental concerns, site features, and city planning issues. Based on all issues, the selected location is at East Shelby Drive and Sycamore Road, south of TN 385 became the clear choice.
Q: Were there risk assessments done for security for all students at one location versus 2? Will there be pedestrian access to the campus?
A: Security is a major concern at every school facility. That includes weather, natural disaster or human made disaster. Every building, every program we offer is done so with the safety of our students paramount. The building itself will be equipped with enhanced security features to ensure student safety.
Q: What happens at the current high school to accommodate a rising number of students while the new high school is constructed?
A: Portables will become more numerous and some limits on items like parking may have to be made.
Q: How many teachers will the new school require?
A: Number of teachers is dependent on number of students with a calculation of 1 teacher per 25 students. It is important to note that two high schools would require more teachers than one campus.
Q: Has the 10 percent of the population that is elderly or retired been taken into consideration?
A: Yes. We believe a high quality high school developed for the 21st Century will be a positive benefit for our community and all citizens by making us attractive to businesses and residents. An attractive community generally means rising property values, which benefits everyone.
Q: What size will the auditorium be in the new school?
A: Auditoriums at this level are generally built just larger than the size of the average class. That would indicate something approaching 800-1,000 seats.
Q: Will there be shops and vocational, computer labs etc.?
A: Final details on programs will be developed in the next phase, but generally, yes – this will be a full 21st Century school for current needs.
Q: Numerous questions about exact specs of the school and parking spaces and other exact details?
A: At this point we are still at the concept stage, but certain general statements can be made about what we anticipate. These would include: 1,500 range of student parking (probably not a parking garage), two story with ability to expand up or out, walking campus, quality finishes but not extravagant, spaced for students to get from one spot to another without rushing, etc.
Q: Impact on neighborhoods near the proposed new high school campus, and on traffic?
A: Little to no disruption as the construction can be self contained. Certainly road improvements, but those will be determined by the city. Due to timing of school days, would not anticipate any impact on 385 rush-hours.
Q: $100 million? Come on, isn’t that an unreasonable amount of money for building a school?
$100 million is a lot of money by any measure, but everyone must understand that number is for more than “just one school.” That number induces:
- Purchasing the land in a community with few satisfactory options of large tracts of land.
- In fact, this is more land than needed, but allows for future expansion. If we don’t get it now, we may never get it, and at a future date, you can imagine how much more it would cost.
- It includes costs for road improvements and other community investments needed when the additional traffic and support services are added to what is completely undeveloped land. When you look at construction costs per square foot of facilities being built, this proposed project comes in at a planned $145.00 per square foot. Let’s compare that to a few other areas of the country from a report issued by School Planning and Management in February of 2015.
- National median cost for new high school construction -- $235.00/sf
- Median cost for new high school construction in US region 4 (TN, KY, NC and SC) -- $143.04/sf
- Median cost for new high school construction in US region 5 (MS, GA, AL and FL) -- $200.00/sf
- Median cost for new high school construction in US region 9 (AR, LA, OK and TX) -- $209.84/sf
Note that we did not make up the regions. But, whatever region we would fall in, the cost per square foot for the proposed high school is at the bottom end of the ranges that include our state and the other states in which we compete for residents (MS and AR).
Q: When will construction begin?
A: If everything is approved and funded this month, that would begin a process that would anticipate beginning to turn dirt next spring (2016). That would mean the first potential class in the fall of 2018. That would mean that the third middle school would open at that same time in the current high school location.
Q: Several questions about bigger meaning more time between classes and longer days?
A: Built correctly, the new school will promote better flow and have no negative timing impact. Will certainly be better than the congestion and slowness of one way halls required at the current high school.
Q: Several questions about the impact on sports?
A: We expect a larger student population and adequate facilities for them will be beneficial to sports. Such things as new sports and intramural sports could be added. We believe more kids with a desire to play will be able to play.
Q: What will be the name of the third middle school?
A: Yet to be determined. That is usually something that many people have input on, including students and the community.
Q: What will the current Collierville Middle School become?
A: It stays what it is now, a middle school. There will just be three middle schools which will, naturally, mean some adjustments to attendance zones.
Q: Will there be a swimming pool?
A: Not in the plans at this time, but space is available on the land.
Q: Is Piperton and surrounding areas being considered in school population growth?
A: Our focus is on a school for the residents of Collierville. Any excess capacity could be filled from outside for a tuition rate.
Q: If we don’t build a new school, will that limit classes offered?
A: Building nothing is not an option. We took on the obligation of educating our students when 94% of our population voted for our own school district. The question now is what we build and what is the best use of our community investment for the long term, coupled with what is the best educational experience we can offer our children. If nothing is funded, then yes, programs are limited and crowding becomes unbearable and eventually impossible.
Q: Why can’t the new High School be built without a tax increase like all the other schools have been in the community?
A: Actually, each of us did participate in other school building projects through taxes. In the past, they were the responsibility of the County, so that is where the cost was absorbed. Just was not as obvious to us because we were funding schools all across the county all time with our taxes. Increases were added and taken away all the time.
Q: Why not build the academic facilities first and athletics second?
A: We do not believe that is financially responsive. Phasing in construction will inevitably cost more because a single construction project is always less expensive than starting and stopping. We also then create an environment where our children have to be transported from the new school to the old facilities every time there is a practice or a game until the new facilities are built. Also, even the old facilities are in need of upgrading to accommodate the number of students. All of that adds costs. Then, when ready to build the new sports facilities, we create an active construction zone on an active campus. In the end, no costs are saved and we end up with years of inconvenience. We say, let’s do this right the first time.
Questions Asked Prior to June 16, 2015 Community Meeting – Please note some questions/answers have been updated as shown in the above set of questions.
1. What exactly did the Collierville Schools Board of Education approve at the January 27, 2015 Business meeting?
A. Five Year Capital Improvement Plan
B. Recommendations of a Feasibility Study of the current High School Campus
C. Initiation of the Rezoning Process for Middle Schools
2. What does the Five Year Capital Improvement Plan encompass?
A. The plan takes a comprehensive look at all facets of facilities and sites, including programming, maintenance issues, and current and future enrollment numbers. As a result of projected enrollment numbers in the high school student population, we also undertook a detailed look at the current high school facility in order to determine best options for addressing current and future growth.
3. What are the recommendations of the High School Feasibility study?
A. The facility is structurally sound, but the existing site acreage, infrastructure, and facility size are not recommended for a future high school of 3,000 students.
4. Since the Feasibility Study recommended not expanding at the existing site, what are the next steps?
A. Our Board authorized staff to begin the site selection process for a new high school facility, as well as the hiring of architects to begin the planning process.
5. Do future plans call for one or two high schools in Collierville?
A. We are proceeding with plans to build one comprehensive high school.
6. If you plan on only one high school in Collierville, what will happen to the existing high school building and site?
A. We are exploring several options for this site, but it will be used for educational purposes. Options could include a third middle school site, career and technical center, focus school, etc.
7. Where will the new high school be located?
A. We are currently reviewing sites with sufficient acreage to accommodate a comprehensive high school facility. No decisions have been made at this time.
8. What academic and extracurricular programs will be offered at the new high school?
A. As we move through the planning stages, numerous meetings will be held to garner ideas from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.
9. What are the plans for the existing athletic facilities if a new high school is built?
A. Current plans call for all athletic facilities to be located the new high school site. The existing facilities would then be available for use by the school district and the Town of Collierville.
10. How will the new high school facility be funded?
A. The school district will be working with the Town of Collierville to secure funding for this project. Many options will be explored, but typically a project such as this requires the issuance of bonds.
11. What action did the Board take regarding middle school rezoning?
A. The Board authorized staff to initiate the rezoning process. This involves exploring several options to balance enrollment at the two middle schools, and it will also require public input before bringing any recommendation back to the Board for its consideration.
12. How will students be able to participate in the life of a large school?
A. This relates to academics, fine arts, and athletics. Making a large school have the feel of a smaller school is important. Design features built into the new building will assist by allowing for small group discussions and learning environments. With a larger population of students we will also have the opportunity to allow for curriculum aligned to student interests and needs. Regarding other academic and extra-curricular events such as band, chorus, theatre, and athletics, a larger population of students does not mean less of a chance for all to participate. Moreover, with a large population and additional teaching and coaching staff, more attention can be given to small groups that will allow the individual to grow.
13. When will the public be informed about the location of the proposed high school?
A. Once a site is selected, the Board of Education must vote and approve the recommendation. This will take place in a public meeting and it will be announced. Once the board approves the land, that information will be sent out via social media as well as placed on our website. The media will also have this information to provide to the public.
14. Will only residents of the Town of Collierville be allowed to attend the new school? Will tuition be charged?
A. That will depend on the number of students we have in attendance. The number of non-resident students admitted to Collierville Schools is evaluated each year. Building capacity determines the amount of open seats at any one school. Tuition is currently charged for any student outside of Shelby County that attends a school in Collierville. Those that attend our schools that live within Shelby County, but outside of Collierville, are currently not charged a fee. However, we collect almost 100% of the per student expenditure from the county and state for those students.
15. How much money is generated by the sales tax and where does that money go?
A. Collierville Schools receives roughly $2 million from the additional sales tax collected in Collierville. Those funds help with the general fund to operate the district.
16. Will the dollars being borrowed through Municipal Bonds be used only for the building of the high school or will the debt be used to fund other town projects as well?
A. The dollars being borrowed through Municipal Bonds will cover school building expenses and will be accounted for separately. The Town may borrow additional dollars for Town of Collierville building projects. Through Municipal Bonds, the Town has borrowed money routinely every 5 years or so to fund Town Capital Projects. The Town will be considering additional dollars in this bond issuance for Town projects to avoid having to pay the expense of a separate bond sale within the next two years. However, the tax increase will only be needed
to fund the bond amount to build the new high school. The Town of Collierville currently has funds to pay back any bond amount for its own capital expenses.
17. What is a Municipal Bond?
A. A Municipal Bond is the way that cities borrow money. Municipal Bonds are an attractive investment because they are tax exempt. Cities with a strong credit rating can borrow money at a very low interest rate through municipal bonds. To finance the construction of the High School, the Town of Collierville would sell Municipal Bonds. The Town then makes annual payments much like any other type of debt repayment. Municipal Bonds have been the source of financing for other town projects such as road construction, the construction of the Library, Town Hall, and most of the Town’s Parks.
18. A concern is that additional taxes will run people toward Fayette County. What information can we provide regarding this concern?
A. We hope that town residents will see the need for our new high school as well as the benefits on property values gained by operating our own school system. At this time, the demand for homes in Collierville is high. In fact, only about a month of open inventory is available today for a new home purchase. Homes are being built and existing homes are being sold at a solid rate.
19. Why did the architects decide the landfill site isn’t suitable for expanding the current CHS site?
A. Our architects stated building on a landfill site may be very expensive and there is a risk associated with future foundation settlement issues. Also, the landfill acreage on the north side of the site is non-usable: lakes. Therefore we don’t have as many acres to develop as one might think. All of this is to say that building on this site is really not a good, long term feasible option in the opinion of our architect team.
20. What funds will be needed to bring the current CHS site up to code for a new middle school?
A. While the total amount has not been determined, any funds needed for this project will come from the capital improvement money allocated by the County Commission on an average daily attendance basis. It is anticipated the newest part of the current facility will require only cosmetic renovation.
21. When is the new school targeted to open?
A. Our goal is to have a new school in operation for the 2017-2018 school-year.
22. What plans are in place to accommodate students at the HS while a new school is built?
A. It is anticipated that both the use of portable buildings and implementation of “floating” classrooms will be used.
23. How will storage be addressed at the new school for fine arts, extra-curricular, and athletics?
A. The architects are aware of this issue and will be addressing storage issues in our building design.
24. Will the new location be centrally located?
A. Our team is evaluating sites all around Collierville that meet the requirements set forth by our advisors. Finding 100+ acres of suitable building space in Collierville is not an easy process. However, we are evaluating sites in all areas of town to find the best fit.
25. Are Collierville residents going to fund non-residents attendance in school, is that part of this plan or is there going to be a tuition/fee for non-residents that attend Collierville schools? One of the options included numbers for 3,500 students instead of 3.000. Does that number included non-residents?
A. We have approximately 100 non-residents at CHS, 200 at the two middle schools, and 200 at all elementary schools. Most are from the reserve areas and only a handful from Fayette County. Fayette County students are charged a tuition. For Shelby County residents we do not currently charge a tuition, but we are able to receive their funding from the county and the state. Charging a tuition may be permissible in future years. For the coming year, no new non-resident students were allowed for our middle schools or CHS.