By Jan Rahn
District patrons came together in back-to-back school board meetings last week to learn the results of a year-long study concerning the three facilities belonging to Perkins County Schools.
The public was invited to the meetings held in Madrid on Feb. 26 and Grant on Feb. 27 to hear about two options from the superintendent, architects, construction manager and school board members.
Here are the options:
• Option 1: tear down the 1921 three-story portion of the school building in Madrid which houses middle school students, and rebuild a one-story structure at an approximate cost of $5 million.
• Option 2: Vacate the middle school building in Madrid. Send sixth graders to the elementary site in Grant. Construct new classrooms for the seventh and eighth grade students at the high school site in Grant, as well as a new gym/kitchen/commons area.
The public was given an opportunity to pose questions concerning the facility study findings, which also included education and financial implications between the two options.
Attending the school board meetings to explain construction plans and help answer questions about the two options were architects Stephen Granger and Grant Creager of CG Architects out of North Platte, along with Mark Lewis, construction manager of BD Construction of Kearney.
Architectural drawings were placed on easels for the public to view, and each facility was featured in a power point presentation to explain details of construction or expansion.
Perkins County Superintendent Tobin Buchanan led the presentation, making the comment, “Leaving things the way they are creates educational insufficiency. Going as we’re going isn’t our best choice.”
ADA compliance is the biggest issue at Madrid, said architect Granger, causing the fire marshal to shut down the third story at the Madrid site, with additional issues of energy codes, windows, water, heat and fresh air.
There are too many access doors, said Granger, the stairs prevent ADA compliance, and the goal is to have the entire site under one roof.
“We have to do something to everything,” he said of the Madrid site consisting of 9,300 square feet—“This means energy, safety, code, heating, cooling, electrical, lighting, alarms, fire sprinklers, everything.”
At the Grant sites, Granger said there needs to be a lockdown system providing security for students. A sprinkler system, up-to-code lighting, heating and air have already been done at the facilities.
At the high school site, if new construction took place in addition to renovation and updates, the facility would be 31,000 square feet.
“No matter what, each [facility] needs things done,” said Lewis.
Very few school boards could consider building something of this magnitude without a bond, said Lewis.
“You are in an enviable spot,” he said, adding that it’s rare to see a district in Nebraska with a levy lower than $1.00.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Lewis.
Below is a breakdown of the power point presentation given to patrons who attended one or both of the meetings last week.
—The middle school students currently have their own building, identity and family-type atmosphere in Madrid separate from the elementary and high school facilities in Grant.
—There is adequate gymnasium space during all sports seasons at the Madrid site.
—The gym is spacious and modern, being a nice competition gym for a C-2 middle school.
Challenges at Madrid Site
—Sharing staff and losing instructional time through distance travel between Grant and Madrid.
—Course offerings are limited and scheduling is difficult between the facilities, such as for special ed, limited English proficient students and high ability learners.
—The learning environment is challenged with climate control [inadequate heating/no air conditioning], asthetics of the outdated, unsightly portion of the school leading to low morale.
—Transitioning multiple times between buildings can have negative impact on students, i.e. from fifth grade at elementary in Grant to middle school in Madrid, then from middle school building to different high school facility in Grant.
—Response time by sheriff’s department because of distance could be a safety and security issue.
• Option 1 (demolition of old structure/new construction in Madrid:
—Would create climate controlled learning environment.
—An up-to-date facility would increase pride and morale.
—New construction would provide a secure entrance.
• Option 2 (abandon middle school, create 7-12 grade site in Grant.
—Instructional time would increase because staff travel would be eliminated.
—Course offerings wold increase and there would be more scheduling flexibility,
—An opportunity would be created for explore classes and advanced curriculum.
—Staff for program services such as special ed, limited English proficiency and high ability learning would be in same town and easily go between two school buildings.
—Elementary and high school buildings are already climate controlled, creating a quality learning environment.
—Students entering sixth grade would remain at elementary in Grant and make only one transition to a new building when they enter middle school at the high school facility.
—Entrances would be secure at the facilities. Emergency response time would be much shorter.
• Challenges of current district configuration:
—Expense of keeping facilities open at three sites.
—Transportation costs of necessary shuttle routes
—Operation expense of three kitchens
—Maintenance costs of three sites, including grounds, plus fields at middle school.
—Facility maintenance of three sites. Middle school needs new roof.
—Expense of additional staff required to support three sites.
—Expenditure per pupil is high due to operation of three sites.
—Lack of administrative coverage at all times at elementary and middle school.
—The estimated excess costs for transportation, utilities, labor hours, staff and maintenance with middle school at current site is between $200,000 to $400,000 per year.
• Option 1: Demolition and new construction at middle school:
—Cost of approximately $5 million.
—Continued costs involved in transportation, utilities, excess staff, site maintenance, etc.
• Option 2: New construction at 7-12 site in Grant:
—Investment of approximately $6 million for new construction.
—Savings of approximately $200,000 to $400,000 per year in total operational costs.
—Increased initial investment could be paid for in 4-5 years.
• General fund levy .59, special building fund .10, for total of .69 levy.
• County’s current valuation is $705,000,00.
• Special building fun balance is $2,200,000.
Potential 2013-14 Budget
• Next year’s valuation at a current-trend 5 percent increase could be $740,000,000.
• Increased special building fund levy to .14.
• General fund levy of .56 to.58.
• Total levy .70-.72.
Future levy implications: If the total levy hovered around .70 for the next five years, the levy could then potentially drop .10 after the project was completed and paid for by the building fund.
Enrollment at the middle school for the next few years would be approximately 18-20 percent of the district’s total enrollment, with 80-82 percent of the student population being in Grant.
Current enrollment at Wheatland is approximately 15 percent of the district, with Grant at 85 percent.
—Leaving things the way they are creates an issue of educational inequity within district buildings.
—Due to increased programming (full day kindergarten, pre-school, limited English proficient, school-wide Title, response to intervention, high ability learner, special education (autism), and different learning methods than 20 years ago, the current student population does not fit in both buildings in Grant without creating space issues.
—There is no current plan for the middle school should a
decision be made to vacate it.
—No large construction project has taken place for over 30 years.