Bond Program Planning 101

Bringing more than 10 years of experience in marketing and communications in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, Jessica provides strategic messaging and graphic design support for bond communication campaigns. Jessica’s knowledge of social media and virtual presentation platforms supports community engagement and public relations for bond programs and client events. Here are a few things she’d like you to know about what goes into a Bond Program.

Bond Program Overview

School fundraising, no matter the avenue, can be stressful for everyone involved. And of course, the biggest school fundraisers of all, bond programs, are no less challenging. As a result of decades of partnering with school districts, the O’Connell Robertson team has a unique perspective on some of the most important considerations and activities to support the success of the bond election process.

Determining District Needs

The most common reasons to call for a bond are population growth, changes in demographics, aging facilities, or changes in curriculum and instruction.

Facility condition assessments are a crucial step in determining how to allocate and prioritize funding. These assessments evaluate building systems and conditions, document facility issues and goals, and determine the ability of existing elements to meet educational needs.

A comprehensive assessment will include building systems and conditions related to:

  • Capital projects including new construction
  • Major maintenance projects
  • Energy efficiency upgrades
  • Compliance with code, life safety, and accessibility regulations
  • Security improvements for surveillance, access control, and safety

The instructional needs and educational appropriateness of the buildings will also be evaluated to determine whether improvements or additions are needed to address growing student populations or to support planned educational program expansions.

Understanding and prioritizing district needs are most successful when the Superintendent, District Administrators, Board of Trustees, Professional Experts, and Community Advocates are involved.

Developing a Bond Package

There are some well-defined activities and timelines for getting your package to the polls. You must be aware of the important dates relevant to your election including the last day to order a general election, the last day of early voting, and election day, of course.

“For best results, your bond package needs to clearly communicate the purpose and priorities for the district. The bond package should describe district goals, provide facility assessment conclusions, identify land acquisition requirements, and determine what additional facilities may be necessary,” says Amy Jones, President of O’Connell Robertson.

Making an effort to engage with the district community during the bond development process will help define important key messages and increase awareness.

Bond Election Communications

There are numerous ways to communicate with your district’s constituents about your bond program. However, it is important to be aware of the guidelines in place about who can communicate, and what can be conveyed. The school district is responsible for factual, transparent communications without advocacy, and for providing the information in the languages of their audience. All communications must tie back to the key messages of the program.

Communication avenues include:

  • District websites
  • Social media channels
  • Print materials
  • Media and public relations
  • Signage
  • Meetings
  • Presentations

Key messages should cover tax impacts of the bond package and the consequences to the district if the bond does not pass. With O’Connell Robertson’s experienced team of communicators, districts receive hands-on support for development of the materials for the fact campaign.

“I was so impressed with O’Connell Robertson’s planning process from the very beginning. It’s easy to follow and extremely stakeholder-friendly. They’ve helped us with community input, public meetings, and have always spent a lot of time with our principals and teachers to design buildings that are functional and work best for our kids,” says Dwain York, Superintendent, Wimberley ISD.

Bond Program Implementation

When your bond program begins, the design and construction team are imperative to its success. Careful selection of architects, engineers, and contractors will drive optimum outcomes for your district’s projects.

Complex teams of professionals and the clarification of community expectations require deliberate communication and careful coordination. The design and construction team will become your trusted partners through the process of defining project goals and parameters, determining space adjacencies, and performing preliminary site analysis and code research. The overall building program and design standards will inform initial design concepts and guide the intent of the project. The early involvement of a general contractor supports alignment between design and budget.

“We have thrown curveball after curveball at O’Connell Robertson, including a rainwater collection request, and recently with a One Water campus. Every time they’ve come through for us and have delivered final projects that our entire community is proud of,” says York.

Project Completion

After a successful election, the design and construction work begins in earnest, but it is vitally important that the communication continues.

Board updates pertaining to schedule and budget are routine, in addition to bond reports and website updates to document project completion milestones and distribute board presentations to the community.

Campus-specific and community updates also provide information about safety and traffic changes, schedule updates, and news about building function.

A bond construction program provides a good reason to stay connected to your community.

“Including stakeholders in design discussions and sharing progress reports with your community develops trust and lays a strong foundation for future District endeavors,” says Jones.

O’Connell Robertson Expertise

Since the firm was founded more than 70 years ago, O’Connell Robertson has been involved with hundreds of K-12 projects across the state of Texas. As a result of our commitment to serving the education market and communities, we have developed in-house experience and background in school communications and public relations to support our educational planners. We offer a comprehensive set of bond planning and communications services, including strategic planning, committee facilitation, facility assessments and conceptual design, project scoping and cost estimating, development and implementation of public information campaign strategy and materials, message development and communications, media relations, and community involvement.

Do you have questions about your district’s bond program or planning? We’d be happy to hear from you.