More schools to be needed in Lincoln

Funding a major issue in building them
By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
-A +A


This is part two of a two-part series looking at the history behind the school board’s and city disagreement over building of future schools. Part one on the Jan. 24 front page (“School district and city of Lincoln disagree”) looked at the school district’s finances. Part two looks at building needs.


When Lincoln is built out in 2050 with an estimated population of 130,000, the local school district is expected to house more than 24,000 students at 27 school sites.

Western Placer Unified School District and the Lincoln City Council have locked horns since the summer over how the district should obtain funding for new schools, the city’s role in that process and how the city’s planning processes affect the current and future student population.

Western Placer Unified School District filed a lawsuit Dec. 28 against the city of Lincoln, Lincoln City Council, Planning Commission and Lake Development-Lincoln LLC. 

The district filed the lawsuit to make the city detail in environmental documents how and when schools will be planned to house future students from the Village 1 housing development as well as how current students could be impacted by the development.

“We can’t make a plan hoping we will get funding down the line from mysterious sources,” said Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman. “We feel as the city does that new development has to pay its way.”

Councilman Spencer Short, who was mayor during 2012, agrees that new development must not impact current residents.

“But we cannot violate state law, which dictates how much school districts can charge developers,” Short said.

The school district is allowed to collect Level II (developer) fees in the amount of $4.60 per square foot of conditioned living space for any building outside of the district’s two community facility districts, according to Western Placer Unified School District facilities planner Heather Steer.

School district officials say money collected from developer fees provides 42 percent of the cost to build a school and state money represents 36 to 39 percent if the district can secure state funding.

Today, the district has 6,582 students at 11 schools, including seven elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school and a continuation high school.

To make room for the next generation of Lincoln’s children, district officials say it will need to build another 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools.

The district’s cost was estimated at $808 million in 2010 to build new schools from the city’s original General Plan and 2008 General Plan and modernize existing school sites, according to the 2010 Facilities Master Plan for Western Placer Unified School District.

With cost escalation, the school district estimates the figure to build could climb to $1.5 billion. Steer said the district adjusts its figures for inflation. The district expects the cost for materials and labor to increase 10 to 11 percent in the next three years, according to Steer.

Steer said the district is anticipating the need to house students from 3,400 more dwelling units that have been more recently constructed or are included in the “old General Plan area.” Using a planning student generation rate of .60, those units would generate 2,040 more students. Of those, the district estimates 1,000 elementary school students, 469 middle school students and 571 high school students.

“Truthfully, we could use another elementary school right now,” Steer said. “In addition to the need for that school, we also will need to expand other elementary school sites that have room for additional portables to accommodate all the students we anticipate from the infill areas.” 

Lincoln Crossing Elementary South is the next elementary school to be built when state funds become available. Lincoln Crossing Elementary School, the elementary school last built, opened in August 2007.

Planning for Lincoln Crossing Elementary School South and Twelve Bridges High School began in 2000 but these schools have not been built because the district doesn’t yet have funding for them, according to Leaman. The cost to build a new elementary school for 800 students is estimated at $29 million and a high school for 1,800 students is estimated at $105 million. 

Twelve Bridges Middle School is at capacity with 869 students but Glen Edwards Middle School is not at capacity. Enrollment at Glen Edwards Middle School is 677 students. Glen Edwards Middle School, originally a kindergarten through fourth-grade elementary school, opened on a 10-acre site in 1959 but was improved with 66,190 square feet of permanent and portable buildings.

Twelve Bridges Middle School opened in August 2006 and has 95,430 square feet of permanent buildings.

“We have plans to expand our two current middle school sites to accommodate anticipated middle school enrollment for quite a few more years,” Steer said. “We don’t project needing an additional middle school site until some of the Villages start producing a significant sixth- through eighth-grade population. Site placement will depend on which order the Villages (housing developments) develop.” 

Modernization projects for Glen Edwards Middle School identified in the 2010 Facilities Master Plan include a new gym/multipurpose room, band/choir building and science/engineering building; library expansion, new entrance, improved parking and drop off area, upgraded bathrooms, improved kitchen facilities, administrative office space improvements, asbestos abatement and improved lighting. The cost estimated in the plan for the work is $21.8 million.

Projects identified for Twelve Bridges Middle School include new vocational education classrooms for woodshop and home economics and improved acoustics at an estimated cost of $1.62 million.


The Villages

The city of Lincoln’s 2008 General Plan includes plans for seven housing developments and special use districts known as the Villages, which are in the city’s sphere of influence and the school district’s boundaries. The boundaries are basically Sierra College Boulevard on the west, Athens Avenue on the south, Wise Road on the north and Pleasant Grove Boulevard on the east. Those housing developments are slated to include 33,731 units to be built over the next 25 years. The district anticipates adding about 15,000 students from the Villages.

To educate students from the future Villages, the district will need to build nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools at a cost of approximately $615 million, according to Superintendent Leaman.

Village 1’s environmental documents were approved by City Council last Nov. 27.

The Village 1 Specific Plan area is located east of the Auburn Ravine and includes land on both the north and south side of State Highway 193. The plan area includes 1,832 acres and extends in its southeast corner out to Sierra College Boulevard and out to Stardust Lane on Highway 193.

The first phase of Village 1, known as Phase 1 or Lake Development, includes 290.2 acres located primarily east of Auburn Ravine and north of Highway 193.

There is no school site planned for Phase 1, which is projected to have 1,135 dwelling units resulting in 333 elementary students, 157 middle school students and 191 high school students.

“Students from Phase 1 of Village 1 would have to go to a current elementary site,” Steer said.

One 12.1-acre elementary school site has been identified for Village 1, which is projected to have 5,639 dwelling units resulting in 3,383 new students. Of those 3,383 students, 1,658 represent elementary, 778 middle school and 947 high school.

Given the numbers, another elementary school may be needed for Village 1 since 800 students is the maximum number for enrollment at a new elementary school, according to Steer.

Steer said the district will need 24 teachers to teach students from Village 1 at the district’s current sites.

Portables are an option the district is considering. Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School, Creekside Oaks Elementary School and Sheridan Elementary School have room for portables. The cost per portable is estimated at $300,000, according to Steer.

“We can drop one or two portables on a site and the state is OK with that but any more and the current infrastructure would be impacted,” Steer said.

Middle school and high school students would attend Glen Edwards Middle School and Lincoln High School.

Steer said Glen Edwards Middle School and Lincoln High School will need to be remodeled to accommodate students from Village 1. Modernization plans for Glen Edwards Middle School are listed above.

Lincoln High School modernization plans outlined in the 2010 Facilities Master Plan include a new dance/choir room, expansion of administrative offices, expanded cafeteria, improved kitchen facilities, improved technical education classrooms and parking/drop off area. The estimated cost is $51 million. Half of that amount was included in the failed 2010 bond.

The district predicts Twelve Bridges High School will not be needed until 2017 at the earliest.

“The ability to construct Twelve Bridges High School is based not only on enrollment being sufficient to operate two high schools but also on when the district has funds available to build that school,” Steer said.


Where will the funds come from to modernize and build?

Voters were asked to approve a $163 million bond to build Lincoln Crossing South Elementary School, the first phase of Twelve Bridges High School and district-wide improvements, including those at Glen Edwards Middle School and Lincoln High School. But that bond, called Measure J, failed to pass in 2010. 

“Without the local funding that a bond measure would have provided the students of Western Placer Unified, we don’t have any way of financing the expansion or modernization of Glen Edwards Middle School or Lincoln High School, or at any campus within our district,” Steer said.

Steer said it is the district’s hope that a statewide bond will not only be on the ballot in 2014 but pass.

“With that, it provides us an opportunity to apply for what is called financial hardship,” Steer said. “This status would put us in the position to have the state pay for needed construction at our school sites and possibly new sites as well.”

Steer said the difference is the state would only pay for what it deems to be “minimum essential facilities” and that could mean portable or modular buildings. This would not include funding for items such as multipurpose rooms, kitchens and school administration space.

“If no local funding is available, no state funding is available or we do not qualify for financial hardship funding, then we will have to begin discussing options to maximize classrooms and available space we do have,” Steer said.

Steer said options could include year-round schooling, multi-track calendars and other measures.