Improvements to Crescent Elk Middle School's exterior, including a new roof, may be among the first projects scheduled as Del Norte County Unified School District works through its newly completed facilities master plan.

Yreka architect Guy Fryer, of Siskiyou Design Group, spent about eight months visiting Del Norte County schools, interviewing principals and teachers and meeting with the public to develop the master plan. The document includes a prioritized list of projects for each school as well as the district office, cost estimates and whether each school is eligible for state modernization funding through the Office of Public School Construction.

The plan identifies and prioritizes short- and long-term projects over 10 to 20 years, according to Superintendent Don Olson. He estimated that the facilities master plan lists a total of about $40 million in projects. Fryer presented the finished plan to the School Board last week.

He also recommended the district hire a construction manager to provide oversight.

"There are three levels of priority," he said. "That's predicated on the idea that you need to protect the building envelope. Then as funding is available you work into the interior. The last is landscaping."

The document is meant to be a guide to help the district make decisions on which projects to take on first. Its development coincides with the School Board's decision to sell $4.9 million in voter-approved bonds in October and another $5 million in bonds last month.

The School Board is expected to discuss project priorities Feb. 13.

Developing the facilities master plan is a requirement to be eligible for state modernization funding, according to Olson.

When deciding which projects should be scheduled first, the School Board will have to consider the amount of modernization funding each school is eligible for, Fryer said. Modernization funds are awarded to schools based on their average daily attendance. The Office of Public School Construction also considers the amount of time between modernization projects, Fryer said.

At $920,000, Bess Maxwell Elementary School is eligible for the highest amount of modernization funding, according to Fryer. Del Norte High School is not eligible for any state modernization funds, although the master plan calls for $8 million worth of high-level projects, he said.

"It was disappointing," he said. "There is no funding available at some sites and very little available for others."

Modernization funds require a 30 percent match from the school district, Fryer said. The district would be able to use its general obligation bond money to provide that match, he said.

Olson said he had initially wanted to move forward with the high school's projects because the public uses the facility the most. But because of the extensive planning involved, the district will probably wait until late 2014 or early 2015 to submit the project documents to the California Department of State Architects, he said.

Del Norte High School's high-priority projects include replacing the school's windows, renovating the corridors, remodeling the kitchen and replacing the roof.

Fryer recommended that the district move forward with improvements at Crescent Elk for this summer, as well as replacing roofs at Pine Grove, Redwood and possibly Smith River schools, Olson said. The district is also in the middle of upgrading each schools' phone, bell and clock systems.

"This summer our recommendation will be the Crescent Elk (projects) and the two roofs," Olson said. "Del Norte High School will be the beginning of 2015. We have to have all this lead time to plan for a project, to put a project like that together."

The School Board praised Fryer for the work he put in to create the master plan, but was overwhelmed by the projects' cost.

Board member Lori Cowan said prior to deciding on which projects should be completed first, she'd like to see the modernization funding eligibility status for each school.

"I didn't realize eligibility is so different site by site until today," she said.

The district hired Fryer to develop its master plan after receiving a $125,000 grant from the California Endowment. The Endowment selected Del Norte and two other school districts to receive funding for a facilities master plan, according to Olson.

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