After listening to a presentation on a proposal for two new school buildings, the Fieldcrest Board of Education agreed to increase the budget for the construction to $29 million from $25 million to accommodate a new design.
Farnsworth Architect John Bishop showed a layout of the buildings to the board in a slide presentation. The high school building consisted of long corridors that wrap around a gymnasium in the middle. Mr. Bishop said the total layout would require 30 acres. While the original intent was to have the size of each class be 850 square feet, several class rooms were made smaller in order to reduce the total square footage to 62,400 square feet in order to stay within the budget.
Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley said budget constraints also resulted in other design limitations that included not having a stage in the gymnasium, teachers not having their own space and the building not having the flexibility for changes in the future. 50% of the teachers will have to use several different class rooms for their teaching which will also reduce collaboration. The only class rooms that are devoted to a curriculum is the science and the ag rooms. In addition, the long corridors are less secure in the case of an attack. Dr. Oakley added that the new high school would have three less class rooms than the current high school.
In spite of all this, Construction Manager Rick Krischel said he felt the building was functional and will serve the community well. Mr. Bishop added that the class rooms will be fully utilized in the morning but will have some unused space in the afternoon session.
Mr. Krischel said the estimated cost for the new high school is $14 million compared to the original estimate of $12 million. He said about 75% of the existing furniture and fixtures can be used in the new buildings and 25% will have to be bought new.
The proposed middle school in Wenona consists of all class rooms having the same size of 784 feet and has a total square footage of 30,000 square feet with an estimated cost of $7.2 million compared to the original estimate of $6.5 million. Adding the costs for the two schools brings the total construction cost, including contingencies, to $28.5 million which is over the $25 million budget.
The proposed design of the new middle school and high school left board members unimpressed. Board member Scott Hillenburg asked why the board should consider building a new building if there is not going to be any improvement. He was concerned that budget constraints resulted in small and fewer classrooms and no science lab in the middle school. In addition, the design required teachers to move from room to room and they will not have a space of their own. Mr. Hillenburg said we should save the taxpayers money and fix up what we have if we don't want to construct a building that will improve education.
Board member Tim McNamara said he felt it would be cheaper to build one school building. He said we have buildings now that are more flexible that the proposed new ones adding he doesn't want to just throw up a building with walls. He asked Mr. Bishop if one building could be built for $6 million less to which Mr. Bishop replied that he didn't think it could be done. Mr. Krischel added that if one school building were to be built there will be a need for an extra gymnasium at a cost of $2.2 million. He added, however, that site preparation cost will be less.
Board member Charles Lohr said the design of the school buildings was satisfactory and felt that Mr. McNamara was using scare tactics in order to get everyone to agree to one building. He said if a building is to be eliminated it would be in Wenona and the property taxes will go down which will hurt the revenue for the school.
Board member Elizabeth Palm said she doesn't agree with the decisions made by previous boards in the past but has to live with what we now have. She said we need to build a school that will satisfy teachers and students. She indicated the state has our feet to the fire and we need to do something whether we want to or not - a decision must be made.
Board President Joe Kirkpatrick said it is important to consider class sizes and teacher flexibility when designing a school building because if they are not addressed it will become a bargaining problem with the teacher's union.
Mr. Hillenburg said he will vote for 1 school building if the board wants to revisit that decision knowing that there are two other board members who would also vote for 1 building.
Mr. Bishop said time is running short on making a decision on the school buildings and a decision must be made soon in order to be ready for the referendum in November.
The board will meet next Tuesday, July 10, to discuss the building issue.
Josh Jones: This is the reason why I quit going to the meetings. The school board can't seem to make a decision. It's the same stuff over and over!
Broc Hovey: They'd be better to build an all steel building then the traditional style way more cost affective
Timothy L Kuhlman: Maybe they should check with the people footing the bill before they just increase the budget!
Jenny Railey Hernandez: No kidding! Pretty sure this hasn't been approved by the voters
Timothy L Kuhlman: November referendum.... but even then. If it doesn't pass they could force it through...life safety requirements from the state... I hope they make a good decision based on everyone involved. We will be paying for this for a very long time .....
Rick Miller: why would they check with the tax payers the board knows best and we're here to foot the bill for whatever they decide. Worst thing I ever did was build in this school district
Jeremy Railey: Exactly leave things alone put money into the school we have people will continue to move out of the area and will have more empty houses we do not need a new school
Christine Cunningham:I believe if they keep the budget for the school at a certain amount it doesn't matter if the tax payers vote it down. There is still a way they can build it...I have been told by a few knowledgeable people that this loophole exists and that magic number is $29 million. I believe that this is how Roanoke built their new school, it was voted down yet there was a way the school was able to proceed with building and now Roanoke is looking at the possibility of consolidating with Eureka....a lot of good that new school did them. People really need to start looking into these things. I think there are too many who are thinking a shiny new building would be great and do NOT understand the financial burden a new school will put on a dwindling tax base!
Garret Piasse:I believe the Roanoke-Benson school district is financially stable and that the driving force of the consolidation consideration is to offer their students more courses and extracurricular activities.
Christine Cunningham:That doesn't change the fact that they just built a new building and are now considering consolidation. It doesn't really matter to me why they are considering it. The point is that the tax payers voted against building a new building and there is a loophole within life safety that school districts can go around regardless of what the taxpayers vote for. I truly feel traditional bricks and mortar schools will soon be phased ou. Technology is advancing rapidly and education has to evolve with it. I remember in when I was college and taking one of the first available online classes. I can rural districts needing to tap into these options in the future as budgets of schools are decreased.
David Dunham: So whose to say that building new building would draw people to move here, now there is a positive thought. I for one support building one building for K-12 in center of district, Rutland area.
The next school board election I expect to see some of you on the ballot since you think it is so easy!!
Christine Cunningham: To put things into perspective on the size of the ground they say they need. The current high school sits on just under 10 acres (9.67 according to the property record card) and that doesn't include the Presbyterian church section....there is a LOT of unused grassy area at the current location. According to the article the actual building they are considering will have less classroom space than the current building, a gym the same size, but on a property 3 times the size of the current building????!!!! And they aren't gaining extras that could be put to good use like an auditorium etc. There appears to be at least 1 board member who has some reasoning and is questioning the speed at which this moving for little to no gain. And there also seems to be 1 board member who actually thinks the state will close our current school if nothing is done. We are not the only school dealing with this, and there are much older buildings and buildings in worse shape than ours throughout the state. The state can't come in and close all of these buildings and leave kids with no options. The state has no money to build schools, rural districts are already financially strapped and have no money to build new, forcing consolidation won't help absorb hundreds of thousands of misplaced students in buildings that can't absorb the increase in enrollment. Call the states bluff and use some common sense!The administrators have made choices to allow certain maintenance issues to not be maintain forcing certain things to fall into disrepair. The current administrator is NOT looking out for the best interest of district. He has his retirement scheduled and will be long gone and out of the area before this is finished. I hope the tax payers and especially the school board realizes that. Would a shiny new school building be nice to have, yes, but NOT when it doesn't make any financial sense! If a new building is the desired end point for the district, then budget for it, which would require making sacrifices to save for the project and maybe earn a little trust back from the community. Old buildings are not a burden if proper upkeep is done. Look at college campuses across the country, they have much older buildings than ours but they have been maintained. My house was built in 1896 and could have fallen into disrepair, it has been through a fire, but as a responsible home owner does- repairs were made and routine maintenance is required! Call the states Life Safety supervisor who oversees these issue and ask him how many schools they have actually closed and what the issues were as to why they were closed...
David Dunham: I believe the new building is all one floor compared to the three floors we now have, I'm guessing that is why they would need more acres.
Bill Kiefer: HOW ABOUT YOU PAYING MY TAXES TO BUILD THIS BECAUSE I THINK YOU NEED JOBS TO DRAW PEOPLE NOT NEW SCHOOLS.
David Dunham: Bill Kiefer new people could bring new business.
Christine Cunningham: Building in a a central location would have made sense at the beginning of the consolidation. However, building in a location without the means of existing infrastructure adds a huge chunk to the budget, having to put in water and sewer lines (etc.) Is not cheap. I just hope people start asking questions and start getting some truthful answers to some of the questions posted. I have considered running for the board but due to family circumstances have not been able to make the commitment to be able to run. Likewise, I have not been able to make board meetings as my schedule has conflicts on Wednesday evenings. I think it is good to read other people's opinions, there is nothing wrong with people having different opinions as long as everyone can be respectful. Sometimes insight is gained by hearing someone else out. For some reason this whole building issue seems to be pitting Wenona and Minonk against each other.
David Dunham: Christine Cunningham I hate the way it is causing friction between towns. Yes I agree, wish they would have considered building centralized in the beginning. You would be good on the school board!!