By Gabe EditorLich
DELANO, MN A new school building for grades four through six, a performing arts center, renovations to existing buildings, and changes to athletic fields and facilities are among an estimated $65 million in recommendations the Delano Public Schools facilities committee made to the school board during a Dec. 15 meeting.
The recommendations followed six meetings over the past two months during which a committee of 38 volunteers discussed facility needs in the next five to 10 years.
Criteria for recommendations included security, capacity and programming.
“One of the first data we looked at was capacity versus enrollment,” committee member Jason Seuer said. “You’ll see the K-4 building is right at capacity right now. Technically, we’re over capacity in core areas like the gym and cafeteria. At the middle school and high school level, we’re projected to be over capacity. Currently, the middle school and high school share a lot of spaces, such as music and IT (industrial technology). These are things that need to be addressed.”
Committee member Mark Schramel noted that flexible spaces meant for storage or meeting rooms are being used as classrooms in the elementary school, which limits program possibilities.
“We’ve used up every little corner as efficiently as our district has been able to get away with, but it’s time to expand it,” Schramel said.
He spoke positively about the security in the elementary building that requires visitors to enter through the office. The middle school entrance could be secured in the same way, while securing entrances for the high school and Tiger Activity Center and the community education building would be much more difficult.
“Our committee went through each of the four buildings and got a better understanding of the layout and issues,” Seuer said. “There’s a lot of data we looked at and a lot of time went into this process.”
Committee members considered three options: a new building for grades four through six, a new high school, and a combination of additions onto each building.
“The main draw of option one is we already have land for that,” Schramel said. “If we go to option two (a new high school), that would involve land acquisition and be much more expensive. If we just added additions, it would just be a band-aid approach. Those core spaces wouldn’t be addressed as well as they should be, either.”
Keeping all school buildings on the same campus was a plus for committee members. They also did not want the district to overbuild.
“We don’t want a building with rooms sitting empty,” Schramel said. “I don’t think taxpayers and voters would be too fired up about that.”
Moving fourth grade into a new building would free up space for new bathrooms by the kindergarten area and to expand the vestibule by the cafeteria, gym and hallway in the elementary school.
Several renovations would take place in the middle school and high school. An addition to the front of the building would expand the kitchen and cafeteria and allow for a shared office space meant to improve security. Common areas, such as music and industrial technology, would be expanded. Science areas would be upgraded and expanded. Improvements to the pool area would add a diving well, spectator seating, and locker rooms. A new performing arts center would also be included.
“The auditorium, no matter how many times we try to renovate that, it’s locked in; we can’t expand on it,” committee member Darrell Egly said. “We want the performing arts center to be functional for the community as well.”
Athletic facility upgrades are part of the recommendation as well.
Renovations to the stadium would include reconstruction of the 22-year-old track, synthetic turf, creating 500 visitor seats and increasing home spectator seats to 2,000.
One football/soccer field would be converted to synthetic turf, another natural turf football/soccer field would be added, a baseball field would be built, and two tennis courts would be added for a total of 10.
Parking will be reconfigured to alleviate congestion at the main campus.
Off campus, the community education building will receive maintenance renovations.
“We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of that building, no doubt about it,” Egly said. “With making some additional renovations to it and adding an elevator, we can continue to get a huge amount of value out of that building for not a large price tag. . . . We’ve had experts look at it and they say it’s a good, solid building.”
After detailing the recommendation, committee members broke down the $65 million price tag.
Estimates include $24 million for the new 75,000-square foot building for grades four through six; $13 million in maintenance and renovations to the middle and high school; $8 million for the performing arts center; $4.6 million in stadium and field improvements; $4.5 million for the middle school and high school commons, office, and kitchen expansion; $3.8 million for an addition and renovation of the Tiger Activity Center; $2.8 million for pool improvements; $1.8 million in site work at the middle and high school; $1.4 million in maintenance and renovations for the kindergarten through grade three building; and $1.4 million in renovations at the Community Education building.
“Option two (a new high school) is closer to $100 million and doesn’t address all the needs,” Seuer said.
A $65 million bond would increase taxes on a $250,000 house by about $543 per year or $45 per month. In comparison, a $55 million bond would cost $456 per year for a $250,000 house, or about $7 less per month.
“We just feel so strongly about everything in that $65 million package that it’s worth it,” Seuer said. “If we’re going to do something, we need to do it right.”
Egly agreed with that sentiment.
“For the committee’s standpoint, this is a package deal. It’s not full of fluff,” Egly said. “Voters have had a history of not voting the first time because they want to see a second levy with all the fat trimmed out. I think we have a very lean, realistic recommendation here.”
The school board accepted the recommendation and noted that more meetings will be hosted in the future to fine tune plans and take the next step.
School Board Chair Amy Johnson thanked the committee for their efforts to address the needs of the district moving forward.
“We were very passionate about having this recommendation come from the community,” Johnson said. “We had an overwhelming amount of support and requests to be a part of it. Thirty-eight people gave two months of blood, sweat, and tears, and we appreciate that.”
In other business, the board:
”>• conducted the district Truth in Taxation hearing. Business Manager Mary Reeder reported that the total levy will increase 1.1 percent from about $4.91 million in 2014 to $4.96 million in 2015. Delano levy authority will be $655 per student, compared to a state average of $765. The district is expected to take in about $27.31 million in revenue, compared to $28.09 million in expenditures, which will decrease the district’s fund balance by about $747,000 to $6.7 million.