Questions from Forum for Sept 21

  • 1. Factual Questions and Answers


    Why don't we merge SWSD and Coupeville?
    Why can't we combine our school district with Coupeville? (Save on administrators & staff)
    Combine SWSD & Coupeville School Districts
    Merge with Coupeville - Single campus in Freeland
    This is a state defined process that requires years of study and agreement of both communities.
    If LMS was moved to SWHS, would it fit?
    The SWHS facility has the capacity to house 925 students. LMS & SWHS will be 750 students in September 2017. The high school currently has more than 10 empty classrooms. See School Capacity Inventory linked here.
    What is the initial cost to move LMS to the HS?
    Estimated Move Costs from Langley Middle School to South Whidbey High School Linked HERE

    Early Release

    If the current half day is moved to a Friday, and there is no school that day, what would be the estimated savings? (No buses, no janitor, no lunches, etc.-multiplied by however many half days we have during the school year)
    We must, by law, run 180 days of school. Half days count toward this requirement. Full days without students, do not.


    Why do we have declining enrollment?
    2010 Census - More people over 55 than 0-18 years, high cost of housing & lack of jobs on the island.
    The 1281 number - Is that total kids in the district? In one slide, special ed was in addition.
    Total students in the district. Special Education is noted (as is CTE etc) however all students are in the total.
    Dispel the myth that SWSD loses too many students to other districts/schools
    Over time we have been very constant.See linked District Transfers History
    What % number of students are homeschooled? (How many?)
    See linked District Transfers History
    Is there a larger % of students that choose to go elsewhere than in the past?
    Why do kids leave the public schools? Why are they choosing the other schools on the island? How do we retain students?
    People make educational choices based upon personal issues. We have surveyed private/homeschool families regarding this choice.
    Can you share enrollment data from private schools? Are their numbers declining?
    See linked District Transfers History
    Are Waldorf, Wellington, ICA, also declining in enrollment?
    See linked District Transfers History
    Why are so many choosing private schools?
    Personal choice.
    Will the enrollment increase? & when?
    It has been declining for 16 years. There does not seem to be a rise in the near future.


    Cost to shut down buildings not in use if students are moved elsewhere?
    There are a number of ways to “shut down” a building. If a building, or section of a building is to remain “unused” with the potential to be reused in the future, it is best to mothball the facility. This process helps to maintain the facility in good condition, minimize deterioration, and make future use easier. Some steps depend in part on how long the facility will remain unused. Short-term closure (1-2 years) can be done with relatively low cost. Longer term mothballing may require more costly measures.

    Typical steps in mothballing would include:

    • Document current condition of the facility. This helps set priorities for the work needed.
    • Thorough cleaning inside and around building perimeter. This helps avoid pest infestations and reduces moisture damage. Locate and repair possible access points for pests.
    • Clean the roof and gutters, check downspouts.
    • Check and secure windows and doors, including roof access areas.
    • Adjust HVAC controls to maintain the building at a lower temperature to reduce heating costs. Run the system on a shorter daily schedule to save energy but continue to ventilate the building for moisture control.
    • Possibly shutting off water in parts of the facility to limit the possibility of freeze and leak damage.
    • Some sites would need to maintain water service in order to operate the HVAC systems. Some sites could have the water completely shut off, but this would require additional work on plumbing fixtures.
    • Implement a monitoring and maintenance schedule that includes interior and exterior inspections.

    The cost for short-term mothballing of one of our facilities is difficult to determine as we have not been through this process before. There are also many variables and options that have an impact on costs. Below is a reasonable estimate for a building with 20 classrooms:

    • Document current condition of structure: $ 1,000
    • Clean rooms and hallways: $ 15,000
    • Clean perimeter: $2,000
    • Clean roof and gutters: $2,000
    • HVAC controls, filters: $5,000
    • Ongoing monitoring (per year): $2,500
    Total: 27,500
    Would we rent the middle school?
    We certainly could rent it if it's not used as a school.
    Can properties be sold?
    If we sell, what can we do with the money? (Invest?)
    Money from sales of Capital (Facilities) may only be used for Capital.
    Has the district thought about selling Bayview School property?
    Can we sell Bayview School and property?
    Can we sell 20 acres of woods furthest from SWA?
    SWSD Board voted to close the Primary School based partly on "significant cost savings". What were the actual savings? How can we be sure that future estimates are accurate?
    • Primary School Actual Savings – (2016-17 $$ - 540,250)
    • Principal $157,700
    • Counselor $120,000
    • (2) Secretarial $95,550
    • (1.25) Custodians $82,000
    • (2) Food Service $73,000
    • Copier Leases/Dedicated Phone Lines, etc $12,000

    No Energy savings – Facility continues to be utilized. Rent is collected to offset some energy usage costs.

    Which property has the greatest market value?
    South Whidbey School District Land Parcels List Linked Here
    Insurance Values for South Whidbey School District Linked Here
    What is the zoning of LMS? Can it be rented as retail or residential? Or is it zoned institutional?
    Current zoning is Educational Services. This can be changed through the City of Langley (The old District Office was changed).
    What about the portables?
    They are being surplused. Most are no longer fit for use.


    What are limitations on levy money?
    We have 2 levies currently. The capital/tech levy may be used on capital improvements and projects only. The Maintenance & Operation levy is limited to 28% of the prior year budget and we collect the maximum. The legislators may actually reduce the amount districts may collect.
    How do clerical costs for the HS break down? Why so high at the HS?
    High school has twice the clerical costs of other buildings due to program needs associated with a high school which are not found at the elementary or middle school level. HS has a secretary dedicated to ASB and athletics. The CTE program also has a secretary. Without these positions the costs would be comparable with the other buildings.
    Can the $$ amount per student by building be calculated?
    Not with absolute clarity. Some costs are directly charged to buildings such as basic education staffing, principals, secretaries, building/program supplies, utilities, athletics and special education classroom staff.
    A majority of the district expenses are recorded as district-wide costs and though they support students cannot be used to calculate $$ amount per student by building. These are program costs which include special education, maintenance, transportation, IT, custodial supplies, school board, district office, food service management fees and the actual cost of the food used in our kitchens.
    Even though we can charge salaries/benefits to buildings it is not always an apple to apple comparison. Employee costs vary based on where each staff member is on the salary schedule. A building with more experienced staff will have a higher cost even with the exact same number of employees.
    These are very rough estimates based on the costs we can identify.
    • ES - $8,114
    • LMS - $7,729
    • HS - $8,758
    Can there be a levy for staff?
    We already collect the maximum allowed by law.
    Why is the retirement % going up so high?
    The state determines this rate. The State of Washington annually re-calculates this rate based on the dollars required to fund the state pension plan. The state historically has under-funded the pension plan so it needs much higher rate today to backfill this shortage.
    Are expenditure expenses (%) consistant with other districts our size? (ie: 83% salary)
    What does the retirement include (just a percentage of salary?)
    The retirement cost is a % of salary paid by the district. The current year rate is 11.58% for classified employees, 13.13% for certificated staff. This percentage is expected to continue rising as the pension plan is under-funded.
    Has the district looked into grants for solar panels - the energy rebates are huge and could off set our utility costs.
    We have engaged in several energy project.The district has not looked into solar panels. The feasibility of using solar panels will be discussed with PSE the fall when we review energy saving options.
    Can we fundraise money for a school art program?
    Fundraising is always possible. Art program is an ongoing cost with an annual expense so fundraising must be continuous (i.e. school garden) or the program would not be sustained.
    What are the funding options with regard to tax payers?
    Levy process that we already maximize

    Grade Levels

    If we move 5th grade to LMS, will that offset crowding at ES and utilize space at LMS?
    It could offset elementary utilization, but no money is saved. Thus, this will not reduce our footprint or save money.


    Will the school district save money if Parks and Rec takes over field maintenance, and the school district can eliminate or reduce a position? Is that a budgetary line item that can be transferred to a funding source that is more flexible? (That is, not restricted to the general fund)
    This is possible and would be a savings. It would require negotiation with our union. What facilities need the most maintenance and repair? And at what cost?
    See Attachment from Brian Miller Linked Here

    Operating Costs

    What are the actual annual operating costs of running each campus? (Not just utilities, but labor and materials).
    The attached facility evaluation linked here attempts to answer this question. Not all costs (such as maintenance, custodial supplies) are tracked at the building level.
    Does closing one campus eliminate the labor costs associated with that annual campus expense, or are those man hours used elsewhere?
    Closing a campus does not eliminate 100% of the labor costs associated with that campus. Normally the costs associated with educating students (teachers, para educators, etc) transfer with the students. The labor costs that can be reduced are the support positions such as principal, counselors, secretaries, custodians, food service and potentially some transportation time.
    What are the assumed annual costs even if a campus is closed? (In this case do the savings make a significant dent in the shortfall?
    Assuming a campus is closed we will still need to maintain a reasonable amount of utility costs to keep the building from freezing/deteriorating. It is estimated this costs would be about 30% of the annual operating costs when occupied. The bulk of the savings is always going to be in the reduction of labor costs. The actual savings is determined by the degree staff are transferred or reduced.


    Is 137 at SWHS a SWA classroom?
    Room 137 is open as of September 2016.
    Why weren't SWA parents involved in major changes for their kids and how and where can we be involved in the future?
    Parents are involved in discussions.
    Can we request a meeting with the Board about our school SWA?
    The Board offers the public opportunities for input at each board business meeting.


    What Federal or State programs cannot be cut?
    Matrix from 2013 List of mandates - Linked


    Can we extend the school year with 4 day weeks and achieve any savings?
    • 4 day school - teaching core curriculum (and day 5 is arts , language, shop, home-ec, technology - for all at HS) - Optional day - limited resources - student opportunities
    • 4 day school - teaching core curriculum (and day 5 is arts , language, shop, home-ec, technology - for all at HS) - Optional day - limited resources - student opportunities
    • 4 day work week? - 5th day planning?
    • Can you move to a 4 day school week, 5th day work day for staff?
    • Can you move to a 4 day school week, 5th day work day for staff?
    • 4 day week/longer days - 5th day staff planning/training meeting time. No more half days - easier for working parents to manage.
    • Do 1 full day off instead of 1/2 days - no busses, no heat, etc. Kids can sleep.
    • Can we go to a 4 day week? Decreases utility costs? 1/2 days on Fridays?
    We must run school 180 days. Districts in rural parts of our state have done this, but it is an exception.

    Schedule (Start)

    Cost savings or expense to change class start time
    Changing start times without any other changes does not appear to affect operating costs. Can we have same start time for all schools to decrease bus routes?This actually increases cost by adding drivers and routes.


    What happened to promoting bus ridership week?
    The law changed on this requirement. We now must do a daily count.
    Would we save money on transportation costs by combining MS & HS (7 -12)
    Yes, this would eliminate approximately 1035 hours per year in transportation time. Combined with fuel savings from fewer miles driven we could save about $50,000/year.
    Can we buy smaller buses for less money and with better gas mileage?
    Yes, but it would not save the district any money. Bus purchases are from a separate fund. OSPI reimburses the district for the cost of buses. The problem with smaller buses is they will not meet our needs. We use buses for To/From routes and also activity (sports/field trips). These activities require the larger buses. There is not a substantial difference in gas mileage between the large and mid-size buses.
    Do we need to provide transportation?
    No, it is not mandated.
    Can transportation be outsourced? (Like food service)
    This is a labor contract issue and must be negotiated.


    Have utilities @ LMS been pared by insulating etc.? modernizing?
    Recent work at Langley Middle School related to utility costs and energy efficiency improvements have included the following:
    • Installation of new controls on electric boilers (4) in the building resulting in greater efficiency and operation.
    • Installation (as a pilot) of new controls and monitoring sensors in 4 classrooms to optimize outside air exchange by monitoring CO2 levels in classrooms.
    • Upgraded lighting fixtures to more efficient units.
    • Repairs to heat exchangers.

    Other energy saving measures will be looked at in the coming school year. These include:

    • Window replacement
    • Insulation
    • Door replacement
    • More efficient boilers/heating systems
    • HVAC upgrades and repairs

    Utilities - Energy Audit

    Has a commercial energy audit been done on all of the facilities, and if so, what were the findings? (Can we view the report?)
    The South Whidbey School District applied for and received an “Energy Operational Cost Savings Grant” from Washington State/OSPI in 2012. The state funding portion totaled $685,738. The project total, including tax, was $1,815,494. Utility incentives/rebates totaled $146,084. The district funded the difference through a loan.

    Part of this project included an energy audit. This audit was used to identify the most cost effective energy savings projects to fund under the grant. The audit results will be posted on the district web site.

    One aspect of the project was a guaranteed minimum energy cost savings. This analysis was completed in spring of 2016 and demonstrated a net energy cost savings of $109,932 annually. The report will be posted on the district web site. The bulk of these savings are being used to pay off the loan. Once the loan is paid off, we will see the direct benefit of this cost reduction in our budget.

    The district has approached PSE to do a follow-up energy audit to assist with prioritizing future projects targeting energy cost savings. This process will begin in the fall of 2016.

    Utilities - Garbage

    Why is the trash bill the highest at the Primary School?
    Smaller containers are used at the Primary School campus due to the smaller amount of refuse created there. Smaller containers must be picked up on a regular (weekly or twice weekly) schedule as opposed to the large containers which are picked up on-demand. The higher cost at the Primary School was noticed last winter and the maintenance department checked into the actual volume of material generated versus the collection schedule and reduced the pickup schedule to weekly. This change occurred in March of 2016 and nearly cut the fee in half.

    Utilities - Phone

    Why is the phone bill so much at the High School?
    This is a clerical error. The basic district charge for the phone system was being charged to the high school rather than the district. The $600/month fee made the HS costs appear higher.


    Can the district use volunteers for courses in the arts? Do they need certs?
    We must use certificated, employed teachers to teach students. Volunteers often help, but cannot replace teachers.

    2. Questions to Ponder


    • Can you market more of the outdoor space and community garden to the public? Capitalize more on the outdoors?
    • Has the SWSD thought of a PR campaign? We need to highlight our achievements to draw people into the district - families moving to the island don't want to hear about declining enrollment - they want to hear about what colleges our kids are going to.


    • How will we know what the majority of the community desires for any consolidation?
    • How can we consolidate students?
    • What is realistic amount of savings that can be obtained through consolidation?
    • Why not move LMS to SWHS?
    • Why not move SWA (K-12) to SWHS?
    • How do you blend all the age groups together in buildings and buses?
    • Can you present different "foot-print"/building configurations scenarios and cost savings information associated with each one? Is there room at the PS for SWA (K-5) and 6th grade (+Callahans)? Is there room @ HS (in 10 rooms) for 7th & 8th , plus office space)?
    • Move LMS to Primary School Campus - add new portables for 6th grade.
    • Combine middle and high school (7-12 grades)
    • Look at program enhancements by consolidating facilities (Grades 7-8 or 6-8 at HS. Allowing 7th and 8th to take HS courses, 9th to redo 8th grade math, and MS students could take foreign language)
    • What do students think about moving LMS to another location?
    • What resources are saved by consolidating LMS and SWHS? (Personnel? Custodial? Secretarial?)
    • What are the advantages of not consolidating?
    • How can facility costs be cut to save or increase programs?
    • How can we streamline - combine use of facilities?
    • How can we streamline expenses for teachers? If we combine facilities, can we share teachers so we can keep art, music, languages, without cutting the program?
    • Is SWA and ES eventually going to be combined?


    • Have you talked to and gathered information from local health organizations and preschools about babies/toddlers on the island? (SW Children's Center has a wait list)
    • How do you get smaller and better?
    • How do the private schools and home schoolers fit in and is there any plan to promote public schooling?


    • How important, or how many gyms and ball fields are needed for a K-8 program?
    • What is the capacity of (community) of SW to sustain continued or expanded rental properties?
    • Can you sell part of 47 acres for affordable housing?
    • What are the identified liability risks of the LMS - seismic retrofitting? (as identified by district attorney and insurer)
    • What are the liability risks for keeping the middle school building open with seismic?
    • Can the school district possibly utilize empty buildings in the summer - rent as a dorm for summer help?
    • What about selling/partnering/repurposing - 47 acres
    • Can pods of SWPS become businesses? (mini open air "mall" or business rentals?
    • Which buildings are most "SAFE" and cost effective for earthquake? (Specific middle school)


    • Would a grants consultant help with funding programs - effectively?
    • Is there a cost/benefit analysis for selling vs renting property?
    • Grant for solar power in all the district owned acreage?
    • How does the grant process work? Limits from state?
    • How can we get more income? More from state for rural? More rent for facilities? Rent out commercial kitchen space to caterers etc.?

    Food Service

    • How can we modify food service? (Cold Breakfast)
    • Can we change to a different program?
    • How is the district showing that food service is generating revenue when you said it costs $5.99 a meal and we charge $2.00 a meal?
    • Have we thought of raising lunch fees?


    • What alternative sources of funding are there?
    • Has the school researched alternatives?
    • What are the restrictions regarding alternative funding for operations?

    Grade Levels

    • What are the challenges of a 7-12 program?


    • Could we create a CTE campus (shop, culinary, graphic art, etc.)
    • Why is art one period a day?
    • Why is there no art at the Elementary School?
    • Are you going to review curricular offerings and requirements? (So that they fit with college requirements without doing both basic courses and college prep on top of that)
    • Shared creative arts teacher at SWA and LMS or even SWE?
    • What is going to happen to robotics next year?


    • 4-period day costs? (How to save money)
    • Savings for a 7-12 program on 6 period day with shared education

    Schedule (Bell)

    • How will bell schedule management be structured for multiagers?

    Schedule (Bus)

    • What about a closer schedule with bus routes K-12 (Add a para for management)

    Schedule (Start)

    • Are you considering single-start time?


    • Have we thought of raising athletic fees?


    • Can you use less paper and text books?
    • Has the district looked into going paperless? (I worked at a school that saved $90,000 a year)


    • Any cost savings to 2 bus locations (one at each school-picking up for their school only)
    • How can bus runs be changed to save money?
    • Can we get smaller buses or fewer stops?
    • Can we reduce bus stops and pick up kids in more centralized locations?
    • Info needed - enough buses and capacity on busses to go to one bell system for all schools? (2 trips a day instead of 4)
    • What about 1 bus run? Busses would be fuller and routes shorter and ridership would go up.

    Utilities - Water

    • Will the City of Langley allow the school district to drill a well for water, rather than buy from them? Is there an existing well we can tap into?



    Our HS is 9th in the state. We have a farm to table program. More PR about what makes us great!


    If there is so much room at the High School, why not put all of SWA in the HS?

    SWA (K-8) How can the programs fit in 4 rooms if you say you aren't cutting only facility is open space available? (They have arts, robotics, 1 hour a day art classes is current programming)

    Ongoing savings of moving LMS?

    Close LMS!?

    Can 5th grade Elementary move back over to the Elementary to preserve SWA K-12?


    What can we do about declining enrollment? (Zoning to encourage inner island building, EDC support of new business (More younger families)

    The district responds to the enrollment. The community needs to address the bigger picture.

    Where have all the children gone?

    Is there a formal process to conduct exit interviews for families to better understand why families are leaving the district? What does the data (from those interviews) tell us?


    Sell 47 acres for low cost/affordable housing

    Why was the Primary building never really closed?

    Can the middle school be made into condos? Affordable houses for families?

    Why not sell the 47 acres?

    Add health care services as rent providers

    Use part of 47 acres to build affordable housing-make a deal with a builder(Increase enrollment, housing is in short supply, commute is not so bad)

    P1 P2 - Move LMS (7th 8th) to Primary School - New portables at ES for 6th grades.

    Close LMS and make it a dorm to rent - ISF, McMenamins ?


    What are all of the income possibilities for the district? (Think outside the box)

    Create non-profit


    Museum - grant - available

    Boutique Schools - STEAM Programming

    Why is SWA treated like the "step child" and not considered in decisions or at least listened to the concerns of the parents?

    Seems like SWA is being dissolved.

    Has every school board member seen Michael Moore's "Where to Invade Next"?

    Can we outlaw or just tax private schools like Finland did?

    There should be more - SWA 4 Life

    SWA kids are the only ones that wanted to be here. We showed up because we care about our school!


    Why is MS Jazz band and choir not considered a period?

    Art at SWA? (Sustain current program)

    Are any programs being cut?

    Is the music program safe in the 5th grade, middle school, high school?

    What programs are going to be cut? - specifically: music? Art?

    Where's ART? Art proceeds?


    One start time 6.5 day (k-12) (8-2:30) - little kids would love to start early - older kids would be better suited - model after Methow Valley


    One less admin at HS


    Move tech to T & M


    2 runs/stop pick up points

    Comment from Community Members:

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