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What is a feasibility study?

July 31, 2013
School closures have been at the forefront of many minds since the announcement in March that the school corporation was considering taking one of the county's elementary schools and repurposing it as a junior high school facility.

Last March, English Elementary students vie for a chance to answer a question in Rebecca Elkins' third-grade classroom. English Elementary, which is a Blue Ribbon school, has been at the center of the closure debate since early March. Photo by Leslie Radcliff
Citing a downward enrollment trend and the need for a separate space for students who attend the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, the Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees made a unanimous decision at the June meeting to hire Dr. Robert L. Boyd to conduct a study of the corporation's schools in order to see which, if any, school would best meet the corporation's growing needs.

"Feasibility study" is a term that has been thrown around a lot the last several months but not many people know what exactly a feasibility study is and what it accomplishes.

This type of study is an evaluation or analysis of the potential of a proposed project to succeed.

"It's a matter of law," Boyd said. "When a school district is considering looking at readjusting their school educational facilities in some major way, they are asked by the state to conduct a feasibility study."

Boyd, who serves with the Department of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University, has conducted studies for more than 200 schools statewide and has been an educational consultant for the past 26 years.

He has proposed a study that includes community demographics, student demographics, current space and the appropriateness of current space, utilization of current space and economic impact of doing something different with educational space as well as analysis of population trends, demographics and fiscal condition of the corporation.

The evaluation is based on an extensive investigation and research journey to gain facts that either disprove or support the corporation's proposal to redistribute students and will aid board members in the process of decision making.

"Generally, you're looking somewhere between four to six months," Boyd said of the time it takes to complete a study.

Community involvement is often a part of a study, and it is up to the school district to make the call on how involved the local community can be in a study.

"We haven't determined that to any degree of specificity yet," Boyd said. "We talked about it early on but haven't really come to a final closure on how that's going to work."

Boyd has already begun to work on the community demographics and is beginning the preliminary work on student demographic.

"That piece (student demographic) can't be completed until the official enrollment date in September," he said.

Once finished with student demographic, Boyd will share his findings with the school board of trustees.

Boyd said, as a researcher, he generally doesn't ask a district what it is they want to do.

Feasibility studies aim to objectively find the strengths and weaknesses of an existing business or organization and its proposed plan of action and helps identify pros and cons present in the environment. The research also aims to lay out the resources required to carry out a project and the real-life prospect of success.

Its most simple goal is to analyze cost to be expended and value gained.

In general, a feasibility study precedes the technical development and implementation phase of a project. Boyd's study of the area schools is an example of this.

"You're looking at congruence between community and student demographics, current space and its utilization and sort of the guiding direction of that is effective and efficient delivering of schooling," he said.

"So, whether that suggests new buildings or closing buildings or combining, that depends on what the datas say."

Boyd holds firm and said only after the data has been gathered can anyone tackle any scenarios of what "might" be done to alleviate potential shortfalls and to further the effective delivery of education.

"Good data is independent of outcome," Boyd said.

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