By ANDREA VARGO
Comments on the resolution to appoint a task force to study the need for a new school facility flew at a furious pace last Monday at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) School Board meeting.
A fast paced discussion folowed the recommendation by Superintendent Riley Hoheisel and the buildings and grounds committee to appoint a task force to study the need for a new facility for Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) Schools.
Charles Weber, board member, wanted to know if a cap should be put on remodeling until more is known about the needs of the district.
Board Member Ken Zimmerman stated, "If you don't remodel, you will have an old building and then have to build another one before long."
Another board member, Michael Steckelberg, said, "We need to find out what a new facility would look like."
Hoheisel said, "This is the key reason to appoint a task force to coordinate a plan how do we use the existing facilities to complement a new facility."
There should be a lot of input from the community and business community, said Steckelberg.
Board Member Carol Fury said, "We are taking it a little bit too fast. Do we need to look at other options?"
Jim Raymond, school board chairman, said, "We (buildings and grounds committee) have looked at a lot of options as far as adding on to the other buildings, but the high school is going to run out of space.
"We have to prove to the public we need one (high school). We are starting early. There is no rush."
"Yes," said Steckelberg, "we need to make sure there are plans for the existing facilities. The task force will ultimately decide."
Raymond said a resolution to form the task force was in order so the board could be polled and have its votes recorded.
"This is a major undertaking for this district," he said.
The board unanimously passed the resolution to form a task force to study the issue of new construction, and the configuration/use of the present facilities in the community.
In the summary to the school board regarding the long rang plan for the HLWW School District, Hoheisel gave some background for the public.
For the past 18 months, the buildings and grounds committee has moved through the process of evaluating future facility needs of the school district.
Bob Abendroth, architect, was retained to develop an overview of the present facilities and a long range plan.
Completed in November, 1996, the study showed the maximum building occupancy as 1006 students, with a projection that the district would reach that capacity in a few years.
Based on Abendroth's recommendation to hire a professional demographer, the board contracted with Robert Wuornos, Northwest Associated Consultants, Inc. for a demographic study of the district.
The study was complete on July 17 and showed over 900 students already being educated at the three school sites.
The projection of the demographer showed the buildings reaching capacity in the year 2000. A more conservative figure would have them filled in 2003.
In light of the Minnesota graduation standards and the potential growth in student numbers, administration felt it was apparent that the next several years will be challenging as a more flexible education environment is developed.
Delivery of the graduation standards modules, incorporation of technology and regional educational resources, and potentially a reorganization of the very structure of a school all need to be considered.
All sources pointed to the same conclusion, the district will be faced with a shortage of space in the near future said the report.
Also stressed was the need to continue to remodel the present facilities and upgrade technology, in addition to regular maintenance.
Handicapped accessibility will be required on any new construction. Even though there have been significant improvements in the old buildings, there are still limitations.
All spaces are being used in all facilities said the report. Teachers do not all have access to their resources for planning and are forced to use the teachers' lounge.
There are no spaces for departmental planning, and there is no flexibility for the district, as current education needs change.
Some departments have been moved to less than adequate spaces.
Administration stated in the report that there is a need to separate the 9 to 12 grades from the younger students, because these students are observing and modeling behaviors of older students.
It is felt they do not have the psychological or emotional capacity to behave like those older students.
According to the report, students in grades six to eight need a separate environment in which the staff can provide a structure and model in which these students can grow, develop, and mature.
This environment would be accepting and amenable to their unique changing physical, emotional, and psychological needs.
Graduation standards require spaces of varying sizes and spaces which allow for flexibility, as students work in various size groups and teams.
Pertinent to the way learning will take place will be the media and technology centers that will provide the resources necessary to facilitate that learning.
Hoheisel stressed that it will not be acceptable to limit student learning because of a lack of technology or resources.
He said the appropriate technologies must be in place, including interactive television, computer links and networks, adequate internet connections, and the ability to communicate and transmit data between classrooms, buildings, region, state, nation, and worldwide.
Another area to be addressed is that of unique learners, which includes the special needs students and gifted students.
These will probably require an adequate number of varied sized spaces to accommodate their needs.
Business partnerships will be required by the school-to-work model which requires the school district to have partnerships with technical colleges, business, and industry.
Business and industry may even serve as teachers of various units and packages of specific graduation standards for some students according to the report.
A family service center may be located in the school, but even if it is off-campus, the school must still provide offices for Early Childhood Family Education, preschool, and the county co-located social worker.
Community Education provides a full array of community course opportunities, and appropriate space must be provided.
Many schools are now providing spaces where senior citizens can meet on a regular basis, said Hoheisel.
With all these needs to be addressed, the administration felt it was time to start the investigative process.
Administration suggested the task force be comprised of the school board chairperson, one or two board members, superintendent, two principals, one or two teachers, three or four community members and one or two parents. The total would not exceed 15 members.