Planning for School Infrastructure

One comment made at the recent Board of Aldermen presentation on school space needs by an astute alderman (with apologies, the identity of the speaker escapes me!) is the need to work the intersection between short and long term planning.

The acquisition of Aquinas serves as a perfect example. COO Bob Rooney spoke on this and noted that there is no swing space need this coming year, and it is hard to justify acquiring Aquinas and then leaving it vacant for a year or two while developing a use plan.

But consider that 2 years ago the “bubble” was only 5 years wide; now it is 10 years wide and it sensibly should be considered as permanent growth. If Aquinas is a legitimate infrastructure piece of a permanent growth scenario, we must look seriously at it now while it is still available.

Regarding the finances, Alderman Amy Sangiolo has spoken with the broker of Aquinas and she reports that a lease/buy opportunity is available. Another point to those who don’t think Aquinas is affordable – only 3 years ago the long range plan anticipated building 4 new elementary schools at a (then) cost of $26 million each and a capacity of 440 students. In this context consider this bargain: Aquinas, at only $18 million has a capacity of 850 students and is in move-in condition. It would need a gym, but other than that it has so much to offer that I think it must remain on the table.

How does it fit into our emerging long-range picture that includes a legitimate financial crisis? I don’t know with certainty, but Aquinas has intriguing potential to help address both our short and long term needs.