Feb. 19, 2007

Advisory committee looks at options for expansion; reviews 'wish list' for district

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

At Thursday evening’s Delano Schools Facility Advisory Committee meeting, members were asked to come up with “wish list” items, along with other needs of the school district, aside from needing more space.

An array of responses were received from the members, including discussing a performing arts center, work on the community education building, athletic fields, and remodeling.

At past meetings, committee members reviewed a number of options for expansion/remodeling presented by architect Paul Youngquist of the firm Rego and Youngquist.

“Last time, it seemed the consensus was that a (grades) 4-6 building was the way to go,” said Superintendent Dr. John Sweet.

He said the building would have a capacity of 625 students, and be designed to add third grade or seventh grade in the future, depending on growth patterns.

Sweet said more space would be needed, based on current growth estimates, by 2015 or 2016 for grades four through six. He said a new building for grades six through eight could be included at that time, which would result in the two elementary, middle, and high school configuration.

“This puts us to 2015 or 16 before we have to start doing something again,” Sweet said.

The current elementary school houses 765 students, which allows for 23.9 students per room on average. The current middle school houses 706 students, or 25.2 students per room on average. The current high school houses 702 students or 22.6 per room.

If the capacity of the high school is allowed to go to 745, there would be 24 students per room on average, Sweet added.

He said construction costs for a grades four through six building would be $22,795,400, which includes the construction, cost of land, site improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment, architect and engineering costs, along with a contingency amount built in, should the cost of material increase.

Sweet also discussed operating costs for the proposed new building, where he figured an estimate of $572,750, based on a district-wide average of cost per square foot for all utilities, snow removal, lawn maintenance, garbage hauling, health and safety, property insurance, and custodian wages and benefits.

He added that it is assumed a principal would not be added to the staffing, as either the middle school principal, or assistant middle school principal, would transfer to the new 4-6 building. Sweet said a guidance counselor would be added to the staffing pattern.

“Regular classroom teaching positions are added as enrollment increases each year, so no additional costs are factored in for those positions,” Sweet said.

Youngquist presented a timeline for either a May or November referendum to fund the proposed project.

“To vote in May, we’d have to make a lot of decisions in a big hurry,” Youngquist said, adding he didn’t feel a May vote would be possible.

“The November vote gives us the right amount of time to look at the needs of the district, have the city review it, and make sure the state is on board,” he said. This would also allow more time for the public to become aware of what is needed and the impact it will have.

With that, members of the committee asked several questions before splitting off into small groups to discuss wants and needs of the district for the future, along with establishing a “wish list.”

Later, representatives from each group addressed the larger group about the ideas and thoughts.

The first group discussed having the building built with expansion in mind; having a pitched roof, or one that doesn’t require as much maintenance; having it two stories; similar aesthetics to the existing elementary school; wireless technology needs; construction management; classroom size; a performing arts center; and repairs to existing facility.

Group two discussed a performing arts center; modifications to the existing middle school auditorium; additional parking; athletic field/gym space; playground area; synthetic grass field with a bubble over it for year-round use; pool upgrades; community education building upgrades; a November referendum date, with efforts to educate the public; adequate computer labs; and added security.

The third group discussed the community education building; improvements to the Tiger Activity Center; outdoor field improvements; a performing arts center, along with additional rooms for music and choir; heating and cooling in the existing buildings; and technology improvements.

Group four discussed the community education building; performing arts center; technology issues; long-term planning; pool upgrades; tax impact; and how good the Delano school system is.

The fifth group discussed coming up with a number for a levy that voters will approve; sidewalks to get from one building to another; more parking; upgrading the community education building; more athletic field space; and a performing arts center.

Group six discussed doing a referendum in May for land acquisition, with a follow-up in November; the entrance to the elementary school not being on Tiger Drive; a performing arts center; improvements to athletic fields; parking; sidewalks; upgrades to community education building; heating and cooling upgrades; and pool upgrades or renovation to make it a competitive pool, along with spectator seating.

After each group presented its thoughts for needs and “wish list” items, the committee set a follow-up meeting for Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at the middle school auditorium.

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