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Looking At Facility Options

By Staff | Sep 25, 2012

There are a lot of schools that would like to have such a problem.

The problem is quite simple, actually a lack of space in a facility for student needs. In the Emmetsburg Community School District, that dilemma is real and ongoing at the West Elementary building.

After some discussions and brainstorming sessions by the district’s administrators, facilities committee and faculty, a possible plan for renovations and construction of an addition to West finally have some numbers for consideration. The Emmetsburg Community School Board received those preliminary cost estimates during its Sept. meeting on Sept. 19.

“We received these preliminary cost estimates earlier today from our architect,” noted Superintendent John Joynt. “These are very rough, but they at least give us a starting point to work from.”

Over the summer months, the facilities committee had met to discuss options for creating more space at West, which houses the lower elementary grades for the district. In the past few years, student enrollments have risen to the point where several students, namely those involved in Talented and Gifted programs, Reading Recovery and Title I programs have been forced to have their classes wherever they could find vacant space sometimes even in hallways. Additionally, the size of some classes is creating a need for more classroom space as well.

Other concerns at West include inadequate size for the kitchen/hot lunch area and storage space.

Through the work of the facilities committee, a rough plan calling for the addition of a full-sized competition gym, much like the current Middle School gym and locker rooms, along with a new lunchroom/kitchen area and new administrative office all to be located on the south side of the existing building, was developed. Additionally, the plan calls for remodeling of the current gymnasium into a library, along with two classrooms for the Talented and Gifted, Reading Recovery and Title I classes. Also, the current library, which was converted from two classrooms, would be returned back to a pair of classrooms with the construction of a wall to divide the space.

“These costs were developed by our architect, FEH Associates,” Joynt said. “He is projecting $2.4 million, which is less than I thought it would be, so that was a surprise.”

Joynt noted that the drawings were just a concept and could change drastically if the board decided to move ahead on the idea. The Superintendent also explained he has been in touch with the district’s financial consultants to look into possible funding scenarios, and the possibility of being able to fund such a project through use of the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL).

“What I would suggest is that we look into this during some of our board goal-setting work sessions,” Joynt suggested. “I think West Elementary would be a big part of that discussion. We need to look at all kinds of funding options and really get more serious about what do we want and when do we want it is it possible, is if feasible. It we get serious about it, then we could have some public meetings and get a lot more input.”

Board Member Tammy Naig asked why there was no estimate of costs for renovation to the existing kitchen or library was included in the architect’s estimate. Joynt explained that if a building plan was decided as the course of action, some of the work involved in renovation might be done by the district, no matter what was decided, as there would been a need for another classroom in 2014, due to class sizes.

“Mr. Carter, do you think this is going to work?” Board President BJ Schany asked Joe Carter, West Elementary Principal.

“I do,” Carter answered. “I think it’s a great idea. As a whole it really takes care of a lot of issues. It takes care of classroom issues, it takes care of those supplemental program spaces, it takes care of the gym and kitchen. As a whole, it addresses all those problems and that’s what we really need, something to take care of all those things at once.”

Carter went on to say that there were options that could be used to put “band-aids” on things, but they didn’t address all of the concerns. “Really, if that’s our facility moving forward, you need to address all those things or otherwise they’re still going to be there five years, ten years on down the road.”

“We don’t want to keep “band-aiding” things,” agreed Board member Rick Brennan.

“I’m all for moving ahead,” Schany commented.

A question was asked if a special election would be necessary, to which Joynt answered it would, if bonding were to be used for such a project. If the project were funded through PPEL funds, no election would be necessary.

“$2.4 million is doable through PPEL,” Brennan affirmed, noting he had also done some preliminary research on funding. “We’ve got a lot of opportunity to get this done the right way.”

The discussion wrapped up, to be continued during upcoming board work sessions in early October.