The time has come. Though the Department of Education requires that all New Jersey public school districts maintain a Long Range Facility Plan (LRFP) with an approval date less than five years old, issues with the web-based software have resulted in districts getting a “pass.” Projects have been able to be submitted and approved, usually with a simple one-page LRFP amendment sufficing.
Those days ended on April 23, when a memo was issued by the NJDOE, advising districts that the “grace period” for having an aged Long Range Facility Plan is now gone. In order to have projects approved, a district must have their LRFP updated and current.
So what does this mean to you?
If you’re like many districts throughout the state, it means that you will have to bite the bullet and update your Long Range Facility Plan sooner rather than later. Confirming room inventory, developing project lists, moving projects from proposed to existing, and reviewing enrollments are just a few tasks that will be in your immediate future. It also means that you should be acting quickly if you have any upcoming projects to submit for review, otherwise you risk jeopardizing your bidding and construction timelines.
Completing an expedited Long Range Facility Plan update is a “down and dirty” approach, to get you into compliance and to clear the way for project approvals. Finalizing this type of expedited update for a one-school K-8 district with no enrollment or capacity issues may not be an overly time consuming task. Beyond that, however, the process can get more difficult. Navigating your LRFP update becomes trickier if your district is considering a more comprehensive planning exercise, tying in an LRFP update to a developing Strategic Plan, considering a larger/more complex project, or simply seeking to take advantage of the situation to do a true forecast of potential projects over the next five years. In those cases, there are other things to consider such as the timing of improvements, multiple scenarios to consider, and the impact of demographic shifts and capacity calculations, to name just a few.
Whether you are looking to do a quick update to keep you in compliance, or want to use the LRFP as part of an overall planning process, one thing remains the same: you have to interface with the NJDOE’s LRFP website. Understanding the data points that are entered, and the potential conflicts and errors that may arise from these data points, is critical. You may spend hours and hours entering data, but if there are issues that cause your Long Range Facility Plan to not be approvable, you’ll have to re-entrench to try and work the kinks out. Regardless of your district’s situation, reach out to SSP Long Range Facility Plan specialist Scott Mihalick at firstname.lastname@example.org or (908) 725-7800, to learn more or discuss how our school architects can help shoulder this burden. Scott has worked extensively with the LRFP software, and has recently completed LRFP updates and data entry for several larger school districts throughout the state. He is well versed with the nuances and quirks of the current software, and knows how to navigate through the LRFP process, so you don’t have to go it alone.