Jan. 22, 2007

Options for more school facilities presented

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

A group of about 50 residents from the Delano area met Thursday night to discuss growth issues in the Delano School District.

A facilities advisory committee has been established, and met for the first time to receive information and eventually provide input on how the district should respond to the growing number of students coming to Delano Schools each year.

Delano School Board Chairperson Becky Schaust welcomed the group, and provided some background information. Superintendent Dr. John Sweet also presented his State of the School address.

The group that was present also heard growth projections for the city from City Administrator Phil Kern. He said by the year 2025, the estimated population of Delano is 15,000 people.

“Growth is going to happen, but it needs to be controlled,” he said, noting Delano, like the rest of the state, experienced a market slow-down in 2006.

He added that the Highway 12 construction planned for 2008 and 2009 will bring growing pains, and that city staff estimate Delano’s growth rate to be slower during that period.

“Following that – it depends on the market – but we expect the growth rate to jump back up,” Kern said.

Sweet presented information on Delano’s enrollment numbers, and said over the past three years, the district averaged 91 new students a year, but said the high school number grows more than other buildings.

“We’re not growing the same in each building,” he added. He said students who attend private schools until eighth grade affect the number of students in the ninth grade class each year.

Schaust added that, right now, buildings are full, and that unless the board would be willing to increase class size, some options need to be looked at.

Three facility advisory committee meetings were established, the first being to present information to those willing to serve on the committee.

The second meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 1, will be to discuss the information presented, and the third meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15, will be to make a recommendation, or to discuss information and set future meeting dates if necessary.

‘We’re growing – what are we going to do about it?’

That was the question asked by architect Paul Youngquist of the firm Rego and Youngquist, who presented facility options to the committee.

“Growth is happening, and we need to do something about it,” he said.

He presented six options to the committee, ranging in estimated price from $11,873,559 to $35,874,510.

Option one: Additions to the elementary, middle, and high school. Presently, the elementary school can hold 750 students, and the middle and high schools can hold 700 students each.

This option would increase that number to 850 students in the elementary, and 850 students in each the middle and high schools, as well.

“If you did option number one, you’d be filled up again two to three years after the buildings were completed,” Youngquist said.

The estimated cost for this option is $11,873,559.

Option two: New primary elementary school. A new facility holding kindergarten through second grades would be built, moving grades three through six to the existing elementary facility.

This option would accommodate growth for three to four years after the building is completed, Youngquist said.

The estimated cost for this option is $21,309,000.

Option three: New intermediate elementary school. A new facility for grades four through six would be built. Youngquist said this option works similar to option two, but with different grade configurations in the buildings.

The estimated cost for this option is also $21,309,000.

Option four: Second elementary school. The existing elementary facility, and a new facility, would both be home to grades one through six.

The estimated cost for this option is $22,279,080.

Option five: New high school. A new building for grades 10 through 12 would be built, with grades four through six shifting to existing facilities.

The estimated cost for this option is $39,177,120.

Option six: New middle school. A new building for students in grades seven through nine.

It was noted this grouping would not be consistent with the grade groupings that have been successful for Delano in the past.

The estimated cost for this option is $35,874,510.

After Youngquist presented the options that had been considered at this point, he encouraged people present to think about the ideas, or to think about any other possibilities that could be done.

It was noted that prices for land were already built into the estimated costs of each option.

“We don’t really know what the exact ‘right’ answer is,” he said. “But, there are options there.”

Several in attendance asked questions of Youngquist, including Jean Kopp, who asked about if the existing facilities were made so expansion could be added “up.”

Youngquist said it wouldn’t be feasible to add a second story, and that the buildings weren’t built for that.

It was also stated that more than one option could be done at the same time, or one option could be done, and another could be done down the road.

Youngquist encouraged committee members to process the information presented, think about it, and to come to the next meeting ready to discuss. A brief discussion also took place about auditorium/performing arts facility possibilities.

The agenda for the Thursday, Feb. 1 meeting includes more construction cost estimates, discussion of operating costs, tax impact, and the pros and cons of the various options.

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