This week, we are sharing the results of a comprehensive assessment of our facilities and the cost to repair and maintain our schools over the next 15 years.

This week, we are sharing the results of a comprehensive assessment of our facilities and the cost to repair and maintain our schools over the next 15 years.

The number is big -- really big -- approximately $189 million to keep our current buildings functioning as is for the next generation of students.

While the dollar amount is large, it isn't surprising. This is what a team of community volunteers cited as its main area of concern last year after reviewing the district's financials and operating procedures.

The members of the Productivity and Efficiency Work Team knew from their own private-sector business experience that maintaining and repairing buildings that are, on average, more than 60 years old could be extremely costly. That's why the team encouraged the Upper Arlington Board of Education to engage the community in a comprehensive and proactive facilities master planning process as soon as possible, calling it "essential to the long-term financial health of the district."

The board of education took that to heart and moved quickly to implement the community members' recommendation. The planning process became part of the district's new strategic plan, and preparations got under way almost immediately.

Because of the board's swift response to this alert, we have enough time to engage in a thorough and thoughtful process with our community to determine the best path forward.

But make no mistake -- our backs are against the wall.

Many of the big-ticket systems that are hiding behind the walls, below the floors and above the ceilings in our schools are nearing end of life. If we put off developing a master plan, we will lose our ability to make conscious choices and determine our own future. Systems will begin to fail, and decisions will be made for us.

So here we stand, nearing the end of the first phase of this two-year, three-phase process.

We now know approximately how much it will cost to take these existing buildings into the future. But these figures just tell us the cost of our current path. They don't account for the need for additional square footage in many of our buildings or for the changing needs of today's students.

We will enter the second phase of our planning process, the options phase, shortly after the new year. During this phase, the community members on our building teams will explore alternative paths forward.

They will investigate if there are better ways to invest our facilities funds -- perhaps find options that would both enhance the student-learning environment and lessen those future costs.

The building teams' work will be incredibly important, not just to the district's financial future but also for future generations of Upper Arlington's students. I invite you, your friends and your neighbors to join one or more of the building teams.

We want these important decisions to reflect the desires of the Upper Arlington community, and your voice truly does matter.

To sign up for a building team or learn more about the master planning process, visit uaschools.org/facilities.

And, as always, if you have any questions or ideas, feel free to contact me at superintendent@uaschools.org or 614-487-5030.

Paul Imhoff is superintendent of the Upper Arlington school district.