District’s Cost-Saving Construction Decisions Pay Off

District’s Cost-Saving Construction Decisions Pay Off
Posted on 10/19/2016

I have devoted a number of columns to Leander ISD’s campuses, amenities and stadiums in recent weeks because I want the community to understand that our students are able to learn and to grow in enriching environments. This week, I will focus on the purposeful steps the Board of Trustees and administration have taken to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on these same facilities.

Location plays an important part in minimizing expenses related to our schools and facilities. In recent years, our Board has worked to build multiple schools and facilities on the same shared site when it has been feasible; Four Points Middle School, Vandegrift High School and Monroe stadium are an example of this strategy. Master planning in this manner saves the district expensive infrastructure costs and also maximizes the usage of amenities.

The location of our stadiums is another example of how location can help increase the efficiency of funds. I stated in my column last week that the LISD Board opted to build three larger regional stadiums instead of six smaller campus stadiums because it was more cost-effective for the district; three stadiums require fewer parking spaces, use less water and electricity, and need less maintenance and up keep compared to six.

I have already addressed why the district decided to install two artificial turf practice fields at Glenn High School as a more fiscally responsible solution to grass, given the wear-and-tear our fields endure during the school year and the amount of water required to keep them up to par. I also have already addressed in a previous column that it is not financially viable at this time for the district to install artificial turf at the other remaining fields because each would cost the district $500,000.

How we build our schools makes a difference as well. Many of our newer schools use a prototype footprint that saves us new design fees. Our newer elementary schools use our learning-focused neighborhood design, for instance. The district works with two architecture firms that each have a design for this type of school building. The designs are improved and modified each time they are built, but the overall construction layout has not changed significantly since it was first introduced in the district a number of years ago. Six elementary schools have been built according to that design, and a seventh is currently under construction.

It is also worth mentioning that the LISD Board and administration sought to make environmentally responsible decisions before it was considered the norm and in common use. For example, for decades LISD has used geothermal heat pumps and insulated tilt walls to make the heating and cooling of our schools more efficient. All of our campuses are Energy Star qualified, and as of this summer, we have 64 propane buses in our fleet. The district received a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that rebated 60 percent of the purchase price of our 20 new propane buses. Cleaner-burning propane fuel will be less expensive for these buses, as well (73 cents per gallon compared to $1.50 per gallon for diesel).

Thankfully, LISD has historically made the wise choice to spend more money upfront in order to save more money over the lifetime of a product, building or facility. For example, to help eliminate upkeep expenses, such as the need for repainting walls, elementary school interior hallways have a tiled wainscot, and in our middle school and high schools, plastic laminate is used on the walls. When we build a new facility, we install concrete parking lots and driveways to reduce the need for resurfacing asphalt. The carpet in our buildings has a life span of 20 years, and it is designed to prevent moisture from collecting underneath and producing mold. While these examples may be more costly at the onset, they pay for themselves through their years of use and reduced maintenance.

The decisions of our Board and administration to continually explore wise, cost-saving measures is one more way LISD is leading to a bright future.