Back in October, which seems like a long time and many snow days ago, West Branch Community Schools asked for your feedback about the past bond referendums as well as what you saw as the most critical needs in our district through an online survey. We thank you for your input. It was just the beginning of what has been a five-month process to create a vision for the future of school facilities in West Branch. We started this journey with the survey because we knew that the previous bonds failed for a reason. And we wanted to be conscious of the issues that caused the past referendums to fail as well as gain a better understanding of the community’s priorities. Our goal then and throughout the last few months has been to engage you – our community of parents, staff, students, and West Branch residents – in the conversation. This is your school. Your input is vital.
In November, the West Branch School Board decided it was time to enlist the help of architects who could help us understand our needs and work with our community to create a solution we can take back to voters. After researching architecture firms who specialize in K-12 assessment, planning, referendum support, and design, the district issues a Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to eight prospective firms. Three were asked to present to the school board, which ultimately selected OPN Architects to help lead us through this process.
We kicked off with a community forum and facility tours on January 14. More than 90 West Branch residents toured all three of our buildings. Following the tours, the community convened in small groups to share their thoughts about district facility needs.
Following the community open house, the district convened a Facilities Advisory Committee of 30 staff, students, and community members. The group met for the first time on January 16 and has met three subsequent times on February 4 and March 7 and 25. They will meet again on April 10. Starting with a clean slate, this committee has been asked to offer OPN a community perspective guided by feedback from the community surveys and open house as well as staff and student listening sessions. As part of the process, OPN has assessed each of our district’s facilities and shared the results of that investigation with the committee to help frame their discussion. Ultimately, the goal is to identify a plan to present to the school board that the committee can unanimously agree best meets needs of our students, staff, and community.
This process is working toward the goal of putting another referendum to voters in August. It is critical, though, that our process continues to be transparent. The input from the community through the survey and open house has been invaluable. The facilities community has been instrumental. The district will continue engage both the community as a whole as well as the facilities committee. There will be more community meetings soon. We hope you will attend.
If you have any questions regarding this process, please reach out to Superintendent Marty Jimmerson at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are excited to develop a vision that will REDEFINE our facilities that will best meet the needs of our students, staff, and the community of West Branch!
Superintendent of West Branch CSD