Written By Alana Abbott, HPM Planning Associate
Strategic planning is an essential component of efficiency models for facilities in nearly every industry. At HPM, we partner with our clients to conduct planning assessments, which we use to create options and recommendations for facility needs. Our planning process addresses four distinct elements: demographics, educational adequacy and physical condition, the operational framework and costs, and available funding. HPM’s dedicated Planning Services division conducts these comprehensive, in-depth analyses.
The Assessment Phase
When beginning the planning process for a K-12 school district, the first step is to conduct an Educational Adequacy Assessment. This is done by first meeting with various faculty groups to develop standardized components necessary for an effective educational space. Our Planning Services team conducts a facility walk-through and ranks each component on a 0-to-2 scale to assess if it is present in the space. This assessment only quantifies the presence of a component, such as a security system, and not if it is operational. This is crucial because you can’t measure if a component works if it’s not present.
There is also an FCA requirement during the early assessment phase. A Facility Condition Assessment analyzes the condition of buildings and their systems as they have moved through time. Using graphs and adequacy and utilization metrics, the assessment shows the deferred backlog and cost of maintenance for each facility. HPM has observed a 20-25% project cost increase if a school district does not conduct an Educational Adequacy Assessment before the Facility Condition Assessment, which underscores its importance.
Long-Range Facility Planning
After all of the assessments have been completed, our Planning Services team develops an additional document called the State of Schools Report, which gives stakeholders a snapshot of all of the relevant data and information that has been gathered about each building all at one time. The report includes data covering current enrollment, space and building utilization, demographics, enrollment history, and area demographics, all organized into clear and digestible graphs. HPM also provides the results from our broader data gathering and analysis on area demographics, facility condition, programs, and budget.
Facility Options and Recommendations Development
In addition to the reports and assessment results that our team formulates, we also provide each K-12 client with multiple options for their facility so they can determine which course of action best meets their needs. These program options may include conducting renovations, consolidations, building new additions to the existing facilities, or disposing of outdated and building new ones. For example, when enrollment in the district is too high or a large number of renovations are needed, it may be difficult for the district to decide how to effectively allocate its funds. Planning Services will also create charts that analyze feeder patterns and school area boundaries if a school is currently overenrolled.
Once the developed option plans have been presented to the district’s administration, HPM holds community meetings where we explain the data gathering process and show community members the possible options for the school district project. Our team asks for potential benefits and challenges, not for the community to vote. Community members are typically given a 10-question survey that includes comment boxes. This helps us alleviate challenges and create more suitable options for the community that will meet their needs as well as those of the district administration. Finally, we use the client and community input to develop recommendations for service, with a focus on the prioritization of goals. The recommendations plan shows the services that are needed, when they need to be conducted and how much each service will cost the client. The entire planning process culminates in a 10-year facilities master plan that the client can use for current and future program initiatives.
Why Does Planning Matter?
HPM’s Planning Services team plays a critical role in the client’s successes and overall project success. Community involvement is a key component of HPM’s planning process. Superintendents and school board members are public-facing figures and must do what they can to make choices that positively impact their community members, who ultimately decide their reelections. The comments that HPM receives from community surveys are a key tool to help HPM identify issues and can serve as a temperature check on community support for a project before any major decisions are made. It is not uncommon for our team to read through hundreds of pages of comments to understand the public’s beliefs around the proposed plans and gauge what hurdles we may have to clear before winning their approval.
For example, a school district represented by HPM planned to combine a middle school with a high school in order to avoid shutting down one of the facilities, resulting in relocating the high school students to an existing academy that would then become a school for grades six through 12. A portion of the community was not pleased with the idea of integrating 11-year-old students with 18-year-old students, so HPM took the time to research similar schools that have seen success in integrating the grades, and proposed a plan to separate the two buildings that housed middle school and high school-aged students. Once HPM addressed the community’s concerns and presented options to the public, worries eased, and the school district was able to secure votes for a bond so that the project could move forward to the construction phase.
HPM’s role is to put our clients at ease, so that planned programs can move forward without any major complications. Through our proven process, we have built a strong foundation of trust with our clients as they navigate difficult planning decisions. To learn more about how HPM’s Planning Services team can assist you with your next K-12 project, please contact us here.