The Fowler School District has planned and deliberated on its facilities master plan for the elementary and high schools for months now.
The plan consists of four major scenarios: a baseline plan to bring infrastructure up to code plus three others simply labeled A, B and C, each of a different tier of cost and complexity.
At the March 11 meeting of the Fowler School Board, Superintendent Alfie Lotrich announced that he is awaiting receipt of the preliminary draft from the school district's hired architecture and design company, RTA Architects.
"A long-term plan for the district is something we've been working on in some fashion since I came on board in July 2017," Lotrich told the Fowler Tribune Tuesday. "We've been working with (Diversified Consulting Solutions) since summer 2018 and RTA since fall 2018."
Each scenario was crafted through a combination of input from community members, parents and teachers, Doug Abernathy of RTA Architects said at Fowler's December parent-teacher conferences, where the master plan scenarios were unveiled for a public question-and-answer session.
"They had identified some strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the district," said Abernathy.
The process, often referred to in business and marketing circles as a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, helped Fowler School District make educated decisions on the facilities master plan project by accumulating all available information on the state of the school facilities, staff and community to be assessed.
The SWOT analysis determined that Fowler School District possessed strengths in areas of community support, school administration, staff and students, work ethic and tradition.
As far as weaknesses, the analysis found that the aging school facilities and infrastructure are, in places, declining in condition.
"Different buildings at the Junior High and High School were constructed at different times," said Lotrich. " the main part of the junior high was constructed in the mid-1950s, the main part of the high school in the mid-1960s, the Vo-Ag shop and high school gym in the early-1970s."
The SWOT analysis also found that the number and placements of building exits are not ideal, presenting challenges for school security purposes as well as American Disabilities Act accessibility.
The school district's ability to adapt existing infrastructure to academic standards was also considered weak in the analysis along with community economics.
Tax rates, bonding capacity and the community's commitment to the school district were listed under threats in addition to availability of land and communication issues described as gossip versus knowledge.
Opportunities were also bountiful in the analysis, however.
The SWOT analysis determined that the school district currently has opportunities to improve safety and security and to modernize educational facilities.
It has many options available to it in the opportunity to improve learning through technology, health and wellness, vocational agriculture programs - which the school board has considered under other contexts as well - and improved access to science, technology, engineering and math education.
Basic code and ADA guidelines require base changes and updates to Fowler School District's infrastructure. They entail card readers and security cameras for the elementary school and the junior/senior high school, with the addition of entry impact resistant film and secure vestibules for each school.
The baseline scenario includes deferred maintenance plans for fire alarms and a P.A. system for the elementary school, and ADA restrooms, fire alarms and a P.A. system, lighting, roofing and windows updates to the junior/senior high school.
"The base one is really just code and ADA sort of baseline improvements," said Abernathy. "It doesn't really do anything except address deficiencies from either a code or a life/safety issue, based on today's code versus what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago."
Scenario A, one tier up from the baseline code and ADA compliance scenario, doesn't propose too many changes, according to Abernathy, but it does take a more "proactive" approach.
"If you're going to deal with some of your site consideration at the elementary school (such as playground equipment accessibility), then let's replace and upgrade the playground system," he said. "Let's revise the straight drainage, let's not do the minimum, let's go to the next level."
Scenario A also includes introducing STEM, Art, SPED and counseling resources to the elementary school.
For the junior/senior high school, Scenario A recommends the installation of a road crossing between that facility and the elementary school, more drainage infrastructure improvements and building entry, office and athletic field upgrades.
Scenario B is where the project starts to take on a new form. It recommends a complete overhaul of some existing infrastructure: replacing the junior/senior high school and demolishing the old one, relocating the baseball field and installing a community health center.
"What the group decided was we want to utilize the viable parts of the existing building, Abernathy said. "We already know the existing elementary's in pretty good shape.
The only thing that's complicated here is adding gym space so there is a cafeteria on this side of the street. Instead of going across the street, (the students) stay over here.
"You bring the food to the students instead of taking the students to the food. A little safer, right?"
The overhaul would connect the existing elementary school gym to the new cafeteria. A new two-story classroom wing would connect to the base of the existing elementary building next to the gym.
"New classrooms, and you'd reduce the size of the building and increase the parking lot," said Abernathy. "Move your admin, library, lab space and all that into this part of the building ... and reuse that existing gym and put a library in the middle.
"So you're really bridging these two existing buildings, they're separated right now, and making this one campus."
Abernathy said the baseball field would be in nearly the same locationas it is now. The majority of the work would be refurbishing and upgrading the baseball field and attaching a parking lot to it or placing one nearby.
"Reuse part of the building, but build a new portion of the building," said Abernathy. "The challenging part of this, and the committee sort of identified this: you're going to have to tear down some of this old Vo-Tech space in order to build this classroom wing and then occupy this.
"You may need some temporary classrooms. This may take a little bit more time because you're going have to phase it on the site while the school is occupied."
Lotrich said on Tuesday that he has not yet heard from RTA Architects about when they will present their draft of the facilities master plan, but that he anticipates it will be this month.