The Fieldcrest Board of Education agreed to a $25 million dollar budget for the proposed new building project. The amount was arrived at after learning of tentative construction costs from Rick Krischel, an engineer from the school's construction manager Cordogan Clark. Mr. Krischel said an estimated cost for the construction of the new middle school in Wenona would be $6,486,000 based on a school capacity for 220 students and the cost for the new high school in Minonk would be $12,000,000 for a school capacity of 300 students.
Demolition costs are estimated to be $2.1 million which would include the current middle school, high school and the former Presbyterian Church building.
Mr. Krischel suggested that some of the current furniture in the school buildings such as cafeteria tables could be used in the new buildings. Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley said the board must decide how much new furniture to buy keeping in mind the concerns of the taxpayer but also realizing that new furniture would be more appropriate in some cases.
The construction cost estimates include asphalt paved parking lots, the buildings would be one story to eliminate the need for elevators and would be constructed of block and precast. Consideration was given to having a separate building for FFA since that is an important curriculum in the school district. Mr. Krischel said he would have a detailed breakdown of the building costs at that next building meeting.
The new buildings would have two double door entrances where the second set of doors would be locked when school started which would require visitors to ring a buzzer in the vestibule for entry during school hours to provide security.
Dr. Oakley recommended the unit office be kept in the old gymnasium building. He said he wants to keep the unit office separate from the new high school building so as not to appear to be intrusive on the high school staff. He said he has discussed the option of having the high school gymnasium as a shared facility with the city. The board agreed to keep the unit office separate from the new high school building.
The board also discussed converting the high school band room into a locker room for athletes using the high school gym.
At the beginning of the meeting, board member Tim McNamara said the board should think hard about their decision on the building plans as their decision would have an effect for the next 30 years. He said he and board member Joe Kirkpatrick have concerns over the extra busing and maintenance cost for having two buildings instead of one. He said the board may eventually have to decide which building to close if enrollment continues to decline.
Board member Kimberly McKay said she voted to go with the two building option but had second thoughts after realizing it may not have represented what people wanted.
Board member Charles Lohr said he is driven by dollars and cents and originally wanted to repair the buildings but consented to go along with the 2 new buildings approach as it was the next best choice. He said you will see that it will cost less to build two new buildings than the one originally proposed.
Board member Elizabeth Palm felt every community should have a school building. She said she would support having only one new building if it was in Wenona because that would leave each community with a school.
Board member MyKin Bernadi said it was very important to have a school in each community.
Board member Scott Hillenburg said he understands that losing a school would hurt a community but by voting his conscious he felt that having one building is the best solution.
At this point Dr. Oakley said there is no use continuing the meeting if the board has decided to go back to having one building instead of two, thinking that the board was in favor of one building by 4 to 3. However, Mrs. McKay said she still supports having 2 buildings and Dr. Oakley corrected his assumption and the meeting continued.
The board decided to have another building committee meeting on May 16 at 6:00 pm.
Christine Cunningham: I will say, I am NOT in favor of building new and don't understand how this makes sense financially. Would a shiny new school be nice, of course but not for a district that is strapped for money to begin with, with a dwindling enrollment, and not knowing what the future holds for how kids are educated. More and more families seem to be embracing alternatives to traditional schools and with all of the internet capabilities, I wouldn't be surprised if classroom instruction starts going the route of online classes. We aren't the only school district being told by the state that our buildings aren't up to code, but the state won't be able to go in and close all of these schools. Many of these districts are in the same financial boat as we are, the state has no money to build new schools, the districts have no money to build schools, you can't close all of these schools when there is no where for the kids to go. I know some say the state wants to go to County schools, but again, who is going to pay for those schools to be built. I don't think any of our surrounding towns can absorb an extra 350-400 students into their current building...and I don't understand the concept of needing to keep the Superintendent's office separate. I have a son who has been in that building for 3 years and he doesn't even know where the superintendent's office is. The point of the superintendent's office not infringing on the day to day functions of the school doesn't make a lot of sense. Keeping that office and gym will be adding another building to maintain (which I thought was what the school board is trying to cut back on) and converting a classroom to locker rooms will add another expense. There are currently showers in the existing locker room....seems like it would make more financial sense to think about upgrading the existing ones rather add an unnecessary expense.