FREMONT -- The school district is seeking consultants to help develop a long-range plan to tackle facility needs during the next two decades.

The most recent assessment was completed in 2001 for the health and safety bond the following year. That study identified $230 million in facility needs, $157 million of which were covered by the bond. District officials eked out a $7.5 million bond surplus, which went toward other projects.

Still, a decade later, school buildings continue to age, enrollment is increasing and program needs are changing because of regulations and demographics.

Trustees last week unanimously authorized staff members to issue a request for proposals from consultants to help prepare a new facilities report, which would cost an estimated $250,000.

"We have an opportunity here to make a visionary statement about what our instructional classrooms are going to look like in the future," board President Bryan Gebhardt said.

District officials will begin the process next month with a review of standards for science and computer labs, classrooms, libraries and other facilities, as well as those for construction materials and building components.

"Those standards were last developed more than 10 years ago," Superintendent Jim Morris said.

"We need to have fair, common standards."

Next, district officials will select an evaluation team of three consultants specializing in architecture, construction management and technology.

The consultants will work with district staff to look at existing records, conduct on-site inspections of all facilities, interview site administrators and other school staff and compile their findings.

Needs are divided into three categories: infrastructure repairs and improvements, additional or replacement facilities, and technology.

District officials then will solicit public input through a series of community forums before approving a long-range facilities plan in June and considering funding options, including a new bond.

"I do think that we need to go out for a bond," Trustee Ivy Wu said.

Trustee Larry Sweeney pointed out that the district also needs to prepare itself for Fremont's growing population as city officials continue to approve developments.

"Even bigger than the repair things that we've been talking about tonight is this increased enrollment that the city is going to burden us with, and we do not have any funds at all to address that," he said at last week's meeting.

"That, when it's all said and done, might be where we're finding our biggest need for money."

Contact Rob Dennis at 510-353-7010.