St. Joseph School District staff and leaders are working with the leading K-12 architects at DLR Group to develop a new Master Facilities Plan for our schools. The plan will provide a vision to improve our school facilities and better prepare our kids for success in school, the workplace, and life.
There are several questions that have come up consistently in our initial conversations with community members. Here are a few things you should know as we continue this process.
What is the purpose of the Master Facilities Plan?
Our community members, in particular our children, deserve great schools that contribute to a strong and thriving St. Joseph. Our schools must prepare our students to succeed in the 21st century. Our Master Facilities Plan will help us to maximize our resources, improve learning outcomes, and make St. Joseph a more desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.
Why are we doing this now? Haven’t we done this before?
We’ve been maintaining aging facilities for a long time and at substantial cost. Previous planning efforts have taken a “big picture” look at opportunities and challenges for our schools. Now, we have new leadership. Since our last master facilities plan, our board and administration has almost fully turned over. We need to drill down to assess each of our buildings and understand our current situation and make strategic decisions about how best to maximize our resources.
We have brought in DLR Group, a national architecture firm that specializes in K-12 district and building design. They are experts in developing collaborative learning environments and school district configurations that combine community needs and priorities with the learning needs of students in a world that is constantly changing. The architects and engineers from DLR Group have fully assessed each of our buildings to provide a clear picture of where we currently stand and we are now working to understand our possibilities for the future and engage the St. Joseph community in envisioning that future, together.
What exactly is a Master Facilities Plan?
The Master Facilities Plan is a blueprint for ensuring our students can learn and grow and our teachers and staff can work in environments that promote collaboration, innovation, and a desirable future for St. Joseph. The MFP will guide our decision-making around investments in our facilities and programs in the coming years.
Facilities planning begins with a clear understanding of our current situation. Working from that foundation, we will look at curriculum and learning needs, community priorities, potential costs, and other infrastructure considerations. In forming our Master Facilities Plan, DLR Group architects and engineers have closely examined the condition, environment, and systems of each of our buildings and combined that knowledge with our projected enrollments to develop initial concepts for how our Master Facilities Plan can take shape. In the coming months, those initial concepts will be refined using community input and by bringing learning priorities and existing data into the process.
I heard my school is closing. Is this true?
We are at the beginning of our planning process. The school district and our architecture firm, DLR Group, are currently developing and refining initial concepts for how facilities and resources could be aligned in the future. No decisions have been made, and nothing is definitely “on” or “off” the table. Decisions that impact specific schools will be made as a result of our community engagement and planning process. Data about building conditions, operations, capacity, and learning needs will be significant drivers in our decision-making, and we will share that data with you as it becomes available.
In the coming months, everyone will see ideas that they like, and ideas that they don’t like. Please remember: This is just the beginning of envisioning an alternative and viable future for our community.
We encourage you to stick with us through this process and the planning that will continue after a Master Facilities Plan is adopted. We need your input and specific, thoughtful feedback at every available juncture so we can gain a clear understanding of our needs and priorities to inform our plan. In turn, we promise to be transparent by sharing what we learn and how we use that information to make our decisions.
Will the process impact where I go to school?
In any facilities planning process, resources are likely to be realigned to meet current and future needs. We have been maintaining our facilities at current levels for a long time and at substantial cost. Our needs are significant. It’s time to invest in our future, and that will likely mean school boundary adjustments over time. Of course, it will take years, and likely multiple phases of years, to implement an MFP that meets all of our needs. Where you go to school now may not be impacted if you’ve already graduated by the time a change is made. Significant engagement will occur before any decisions about boundaries are made. Every effort will be made to ensure a smooth transition for any students who move to a different school.
Are staff or teachers going to lose their jobs?
No decisions regarding building-level staffing have been made, and there is no current timetable for such decisions. It will take years, and likely multiple phases of years, to implement an MFP, so significant staffing decisions as a result of this plan are not on the immediate horizon. If and when a school closes, our preference would be to transfer staff and teachers to other schools wherever possible. Additionally, we would seek to eliminate vacant positions before identifying any needed staffing reductions.
How can I contribute during the planning process?
Our facilities assessments are complete and the school district is working with DLR Group to develop and refine concepts for what the future of our schools could look like. Data from two surveys and initial stakeholder conversations have helped us get to this point. We need your continued input to help us refine these concepts!
A new round of concepts will be ready for input during the third week of October. There will be an opportunity to review and provide feedback on these concepts via an online portal that will be distributed widely throughout the St. Joseph community. Additionally, administrators are currently visiting school buildings to gather input from building-level teachers and staff, as well as visiting with community groups to provide an update on the process and gather stakeholder input.
A new round of concepts will be ready for input during the third week of October. We will host multiple in-person and online opportunities for community-wide input on how the concepts should come together to form our final Master Facilities Plan. Our work will primarily focus on the high school level, where we are poised to make the most immediate and impactful changes.
Below are details for the two scheduled community-wide events:
Dates: October 23 & 24
Time: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. (New conversations at the top of each hour)
Location: emPowerU, 518 S 6th Street, Saint Joseph, MO
Join us for new breakout discussions at the top of the hour at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., or 7 p.m. Stay for the whole event, or come and go as you please. Conversations will center on our concepts and related issues, including strategic planning for education and our city and school district finances.
Engage and Learn!
We encourage you to follow the process on our website and through social media and email updates. You can access our Master Facilities Plan website here: www.sjsdfacilities.org. On this website, we have provided information from the process, including all facilities assessments, capacity projections, and presentations that have been given by DLR Group to district leaders and stakeholders. This information provides a critical foundation for understanding where we are and our possibilities for the future. We encourage you to dig into this information as we get ready for September and October engagement opportunities.
What happens next?
This Fall we will decide on a plan for our future. Your input is critical to helping us decide the best path for our children, and our work is just getting underway. As a plan for the future moves forward, we will continue to engage around financial and bond considerations, and the program, site planning, and design for any new construction or renovations we pursue.
Below is our initial vision for upcoming junctures in the planning and implementation process as we look toward Phase One of our facilities planning work, focused on the high school level. Specific timeframes are dependent on the parameters of the plan that moves forward.
Master Facilities Planning for High School Concepts
Planning and Engagement for Potential Bond Referendum (if necessary)
Engagement for Building-Level Program and Site Planning
Continued Building-Level Program/Site Planning and/or Design Work