Lyndon school board considers architect’s ideas for facilities improvement project

LYNDON – Much like Christmas shopping, the USD 421 Board of Education perused an architect’s preliminary ideas and estimated price tags for a proposed facilities improvement project last Wednesday, coming up with a few recommendations to be considered this week by a facilities focus committee.

USD 421 Superintendent Brian Spencer presented drawings that had been developed by Dave Emig, an architect hired by the board to develop plans for a facilities project. Emig had also developed cost estimates for each of the plans, which explored three concepts: Replacing older parts of the facilities with new; remodeling existing facilities; and new construction to create one facility on the north side of Sixth Street.

Spencer noted that previous plans to construct a new facility across Sixth Street were not considered in Emig’s cost estimates because of the board’s decision last month to scrap that idea, citing a time constraint for calling an election and unknown expenses of closing the street.

In information provided by Emig, he notes that existing facilities have 116,986 square feet of space, and his plans were developed in consideration the school board’s priorities of addressing student safety and the aging facilities. Emig told the facilities focus committee he added the concept of renovating the existing facilities as a cost saving option that would also address the board’s priorities.

Plans and cost estimates considered by the board included:

Concept 3 – $14.5 million estimated; abandons all facilities south of Sixth Street except for the gym; permanently closes Seventh Street; traditional brick and mortar construction of classrooms, gym/cafeteria and library; 67,100 square feet of new construction for 116,150 square feet total.

Concept 4 – $11.8 million; Sixth Street closed during school hours; original high school and elementary school buildings replaced with ground level additions; new classrooms on both sides of the street; gym/cafeteria/storm shelter in monolithic dome; 52,300 square feet new construction, 124,250 square feet total.

Concept 6 – $10.2 million; original high school and elementary school replaced; permanently closes Seventh Street; all buildings south of Sixth Street abandoned, except for the gym and classrooms converted to district office; monolithic dome construction of new classrooms and gym/cafeteria; 55,233 square feet new construction, 102,824 square feet total.

Concept 7 – $6.5 million; Sixth Street closed during school hours; original high school and elementary buildings retained and renovated; auditorium upgrades; new monolithic dome serves as gym/cafeteria/storm shelter; locker rooms and storm shelter constructed at Jones Park; 14,380 square feet new construction, 131,403 square feet total.

Concept 8 – $6.7 million; Sixth Street closed during school hours; original high school and elementary buildings retained and renovated; auditorium upgrades; new hardened conventional construction serves as gym/cafeteria/storm shelter; locker rooms and storm shelter constructed at Jones Park; 14,680 square feet new construction, 131,708 square feet total.

School board members discussed the various concepts and how they fit the board’s goals in proposing the facilities improvement project.

Spencer noted the remodeling concept would allow construction without expanding the facilities beyond its existing footprint, but board members rejected the two remodeling plans due to concern about safety and the aging facilities.

“This is not taking care of safety issues at all,” said USD 421 Board Member Melissa Herdman, “and that’s what started it (facilities improvement proposal).”

Referring to constructing new structures next to the older parts of the school, “then if it falls down, then where are we at?” asked USD 421 Board Member Bob Knoernschild.

Spencer reminded Knoernshild, “They said the building is structurally sound – with that you wouldn’t have to worry about the building falling down.” He noted features such as the older buildings’ roofs and windows would still require maintenance or renovation.

Knoernschild also pointed out that renovation plans did not enlarge the size of the auditorium. Spencer said under the facilities remodeling plans the auditorium would be remodeled and the number of seats could be reduced to install “new, larger seats.”

With the board focusing on concept 6, Knoernschild made suggestions on placement of the monolithic domes to keep the school’s gymnasiums near each other.

While board members took no official action, their comments reflected a consensus in favoring concept 6. Board member Glenda Bronson was absent.

USD 421 Board Member Lisa Baker noted that none of the concepts included an expansion in classroom space.

“I don’t see where you have extra classrooms,” Baker said. “And what about a meeting room?”

Spencer said Emig made the designs based on the current number of classrooms and sizes.

“At this point we’ve not added anything,” he said.

Board members also considered whether patrons would be receptive to abandoning part of the existing facilities.

“Do you think that will be a sticking point with the community?” Spencer said.

USD 421 Board Member Lori Sturdy asked whether the Three Lakes Educational Cooperative would have use for the buildings.

“I think there’s a really good chance we could do something with Three Lakes,” Spencer said, “depending on what it would cost them, if it’s something we’re willing to not charge them much for.”

Spencer requested permission from the board to begin searching for possible uses of the facilities if abandoned.

The superintendent also told the board about informal polls he had taken among school staff and facilities focus committee members in regard to the concepts and the amount of a bond issue.

“We talked about how many mills the community would stand for if they were for a bond issue,” Spencer said, noting the polling of committee members favored a $5 million to $10 million bond issue, or 11 to 22 mill levy increase.

Spencer said he would take to the facilities focus committee the board’s recommendations of adding extra classrooms and locating gymnasiums in proximity of each other, and relay the board’s preference for new construction over remodeling existing facilities.

The facilities focus committee meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the high school library. The committee’s purpose is to develop a recommendation to the school board for a facilities improvement project.

See related story here.

See the superintendent’s letter to patrons here.

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