SPS Board of Directors
Subject: Facility Upgrade BEX IV Levy
Dear Honorable Directors;

At Arbor Heights Elementary, our entire school community continues to focus on our goals to further enhance educational excellence. Parents, students, staff, and City partners have collectively committed to helping our school be a safe haven and rich academic environment for our children. However, the physical facility itself is a very significant drawback and hampers our progress.

The purpose of this letter is to share with the BEX IV Levy Committee our data-driven rationale for top consideration as a school with the greatest need for building replacement. A growing body of research demonstrates an explicit, measureable relationship between the physical characteristics of school buildings and effective (or ineffective) student learning. For example:

Students learning in better building conditions earn 5-17% higher test scores than students in those that are substandard. (1) The Arbor Heights Facility Condition Index score was rated a 3.4 (The FCI score refers to a building in need of extensive work or replacement based on a 5 point scale with 5 being the most amount of work needed as per the SPS Facilities Master Plan, 2011).
Walk-through Examples of Building Deficits:
1. Configuration: Instructional space for differentiated learning is extremely limited. Student and staff restrooms are sparse and spaced far from some classrooms, resulting in lost instructional time. The library is a converted kindergarten classroom.
2. Building Maintenance: Paint is peeling and the roof leaks. Classroom doors do not have safety windows. Asphalt on play areas is uneven and moss-covered.
3. Health and Safety: Mold and rodent activity are evident in classrooms and cafeteria, which poses a significant public health concern. Water is not potable in restrooms and some classroom sinks. There is exposed and frayed pipe insulation, and portable classrooms have poor ventilation, deteriorated asbestos, and standing water beneath.
4. HVAC: The heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems that feed classrooms are outdated and at times dysfunctional. The computer lab overheats, and classrooms are inconsistently heated due to a failing boiler.

Student’s standardized achievement scores rose 10.9% in schools where building condition improved from poor to excellent. (2) Arbor Heights Educational Adequacy score based on MENG Analysis surveyors was 4.2. (The MENG Analysis score is based on a 5 point scale with 5 being many deficiencies as per the SPS Facilities Master Plan, 2011). Our 4.2 score is the highest rating of any currently opened and operating school in the district.
Walk-through Examples of Educational Adequacy Deficiencies
1. Capacity: As noted above, there is inadequate classroom space to provide differentiated instruction, expand our Spectrum program or meet our growing special education sensory needs. There is also little or no storage for science materials or instruction.
2. Configuration: Classrooms in the SW corridor are walled-in portable classrooms and as such, team-teaching cannot be accommodated. Students in the SW corridor have limited access to natural light. Instructional time is lost due to long hallways leading to the few restrooms and other areas of the school. Connections to wall outlets are very limited within the classrooms and building. Safety issues result when cords and electrical strips are used to accommodate technology hardware. Conductivity to the few wireless internet-hubs are constricted due to the cement block walls throughout the building.
3. Environment: Please visit our school! Prospective families and other visitors to our school consistently comment on the undesirable aesthetic of our building. Additionally, safety and comfort are very hard to maintain in a building 64 years old with minimal maintenance and essentially no updating since 1958.

Students experience a significant reduction in analytical ability, reading speed, and reading comprehension when temperatures exceed 73.4 degrees.(3) Arbor Heights experiences significant heat fluctuations particularly in late September/October and in June. In the upper classrooms on the south side, temperatures were well over the benchmark noted above for several days this past year. Conversely, our SW classrooms have experienced many days below 55 degrees during our very cold winter. As previously mentioned, this is due to a HVAC system that is inconsistent and outdated. This is unacceptable.

Students in classrooms with the most exposure to daylight progressed 20% faster on math tests and 26% higher on reading tests than those in classrooms with the least exposure. (4) The majority of Arbor Heights classroom windows in the SW corridor are made of yellowing Plexiglass. Natural light is further diminished by fraying shades pulled down to keep heat in the classrooms.

As the age of school buildings increase, the achievement scores of students tend to decrease. (5) In fact, one study suggested that facility conditions may have a stronger impact on a student’s academic performance than the combined influences of family background, socioeconomic status, school attendance and behavior.(6) Arbor Heightswas built in 1948 with portables installed in 1958. In order to fulfill our mission, we need an updated learning environment where building condition, site infrastructure, and educational adequacy are commensurate with the needs of our students and the community.

Arbor Heights is comprised of thoughtful, intelligent, and awe-inspiring individuals. We are committed to educational excellence. We believe a new building will have a positive impact on our children, as well as the community as a whole. Please consider the data provided in the SPS 2011 Facilities Master Plan and make our school a priority as you plan allocation of BEX IV Levy funds. We hope you will not overlook the essential work of Arbor Heights Elementary to provide rigorous and enriching educational opportunities for all students-- for their future!


Christy Collins
Arbor Heights Elementary

John Christensen and Cori Roed
Arbor Heights Elementary PTA

Sources(1) Earthman, G. "The Impact of School Building Condition and Student Achievement," Organization for Economic Coordination and Development Conference, Luxemburg, 2008; Moore, D., and Warner, E. "Where Children Learn: The Effect of Facilities on Student Achievement," Council of Education Facility Planners International, 1998; Morgan, L. "Where Children Learn: Facilities, Conditions and Student Test Performance in Milwaukee Public Schools," Council of Educational Facility Planners International, 2000.
(2) Edwards, M. "Building Conditions, Parental Involvement and Student Achievement in the D.C. Public School System," master’s thesis, Georgetown University, 1992.
(3) Harner, David. "Effects of Thermal Environment on Learning Skills," CEFP Journal, April 2004.
(4) Heschong_Mahone study.
(5 & 6) Morgan, L. 2000.