School Board hears numbers for Facilities Task Force ideas
What would it cost to expand Forest Lake Area High School to include ninth grade and make Century the district’s only junior high? Or to remodel Southwest to accommodate all the programs that now take place in the Central Learning Center? And last but very important, to deal with serious maintenance issues at all district schools?
The School Board found out at the meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Depending on the options chosen, the grand total ranges from $137 million to $171 million.
The Facilities Task Force recommended that the district limit spending to $130 million. The $137 million Option 1 comes closest to that goal by including only the most critical deferred maintenance projects for the elementary schools, only a partial list of deferred maintenance for the secondary schools, and a four-station gym (instead of six) at the high school.
Option 2 adds more high school gym space, bringing the cost to $140 million.
For $149 million, Option 3 would take care of all deferred maintenance at the high school.
Options 4 and 5 add more elementary school deferred maintenance. At $163 million (Option 4), the district would get most of the elementary fix-ups on the list, and at $171 million, it would get them all.
The board met again for four hours on Saturday, Oct. 12, to discuss the details. Board President Rob Raphael said they did not reach any major conclusions but instead focused on understanding the options and what parts are critical.
The Facilities Task Force began with a list of needs that was compiled by a similar group in 2009 and 2010. That group identified more than $100 million of needs “just to update what we have,” Superintendent Linda Madsen said in her presentation Thursday. The school district’s attempt to pass a voter referendum to bond for some of those items failed.
The task force that met starting in the fall of 2012 decided it was necessary to go beyond just a list of repairs and rethink the big picture. The group recommended a secondary school campus at Century Junior High and Forest Lake Area High School. The aging Central Learning Center would be torn down or sold. With the junior high students all attending Century, Southwest would take the place of the CLC. The Southwest swimming pool would be removed and a new one built.
The task force spent three Saturdays touring district buildings, hearing from the principal and lead custodian at each site. Building and Grounds Supervisor Mike Kopietz attended every tour, and the task force included members who have professional backgrounds in architecture and similar fields, Madsen said.
The sorry state of some classrooms moved task force members to think major work was needed.
“I was surprised at what we allow our children to live with,” one commented on the video that was shown at the board meeting.
“I was struck by the investment that the greatest generation made. We’ve been coasting off that,” task force member Shawn Otto said on the video.
The list of improvements includes heating/ventilation/air conditioning, safety/security, a new performing arts center, track, football field and tennis courts.
The new pool would be added to Century Junior High, because junior high gym classes include a swim unit.
The high school would have 25 new classrooms for ninth-graders, a totally redone science section, and the agriculture classrooms and greenhouse moved closer to the science rooms.
Food service for an additional 500 students would be added to the high school.
The superintendent and other senior staff would move to new offices at the high school so that the current district office could be used as a staff development center.
Century Junior High, in addition to more classrooms, would gain a large multipurpose room where up to 500 people could gather and sit. The Century gym has no bleachers.
Southwest would be redesigned to house early childhood classrooms and play area, Montessori classrooms and playground, community education offices, and the Alternative Learning Center, two gyms, a cafeteria, separate parking lots and four separate entrances.
Traffic concerns were not discussed in the board meeting Thursday.
Possible schedules for the projects were presented. A referendum could happen as early as 2014. The elementary school repairs and upgrades could take place in three years of construction: 2015, 2016 and 2017. Construction work at Century and the high school could begin in 2015 and at Southwest in 2016. The Central Learning Center could be torn down in 2017.