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Getting ready for school moves a major project

Think for a second about the last time you moved. Now, imagine your house was about 200 times bigger, with furnishings to accommodate a couple of thousand, and you've got an idea what Rosalyn Pautzke's life has been like the past few months.

Since last summer Pautzke, the Farmington School District's administrative services director, has been leading the effort to make sure teachers, students and others at Farmington's new high school will have the furniture and other equipment they need on the first day of class in September.

When the moving trucks pull up to the current FHS building sometime next summer they'll load up, among other things, 244 stools, 152 music stands and 300 wastebaskets.

In other words, this is not the kind of move you can pull off with a U-Haul and a couple of friends.

For the district, the process of preparing for the move started last summer when employees from DLR, the district's former architect, did an inventory of all the desks, projectors and other equipment currently in place. Everything got its own bar code sticker to help the district track each piece of furniture.

That inventory, plus a list of requests from teachers and other staff members, helped the district figure out what new equipment it would need to buy for the new high school and the other three schools that will have new occupants next fall. From there, it was a matter of cutting that list to something that would fit in the district's budget for what it calls FF&E -- furniture, fixtures and equipment.

"At one point the list we were provided by DLR as kind of to start from was in the $9 million range," Pautzke said. "We only had $4.5 million."

With about $500,000 needed for a phone system at the new building and another $360,000 for a data network and a new playground planned for the district's fifth elementary school, there wasn't a lot of cash sitting around for new furniture.

Some of the cuts were easy. The original list included things like school supplies that come out of other budgets. It also did not take into account items that could be moved from one school to another. Or things, like classroom desks for teachers, that will not be needed in the new high school, where teachers will have prep areas outside their classrooms.

Beyond that, trimming the budget was a matter of separating the things teachers and students needed from the things it would be nice to have. The district will also leave as many as five classrooms at the new school unfurnished until the student population grows into them. The district will also use some hand-me-down furniture from the old city hall building.

"We continued to try to refine the requests, the items that teachers think they need in the new space," Pautzke said. "Some of that was pretty drastic cutting that had to be done because we didn't have a large FF&E number."

Pautzke said the district hit its $4.5 million target Monday.

"All of the, 'It would just be nice to have it' -- those are gone. And people understand," Pautzke said. "The philosophy we've used is that most of the courses that are going to be taught in the new high school are being taught at the current high school. Unless there's something peculiar about the space they would be using, for the most part the instructional materials should exist."

Even with all that figured out, though, Pautzke expects new needs to start popping up next fall.

"Some of the areas you just have to get in and live in them and see what you need," she said.

Moving out

Of course, putting together a shopping list of new furniture is only part of the process. The district also has to make sure that when moving day comes this summer everything goes where it's supposed to go. The district is in the process of requesting bids from moving companies.

Once a company is hired, it's just a matter of making sure each piece of furniture has a sticker explaining where it needs to go and coming up with a schedule that allows movers to do their work around the construction projects planned for the three existing schools. The weight room at the current high school gets a lot of use during the summer, so that won't move until mid-August.

Pautzke describes the process like a series of dominoes.

"You can't move things into the existing high school until we move things out. That's the first domino," Pautzke said. "There's just so much detail. When you get down to what size school is in which room it's very exhausting. It's like a 10,000-piece puzzle and it's all spilled out all over. But we're getting it. We're a lot further than we were two months ago."