Rutland community quizzes school board on building
By JANE UTECHT, Staff Reporter
The tables were turned a bit on Thursday night, as the Rutland school community got to quiz the school board, not on academic issues but about the facility.|
Due to increasing enrollment and fire code issues, the board has been looking at a potential building project, but before making a decision, members wanted community input.
The board and superintendent sent a letter to all district patrons, explaining their ideas and inviting them to Thursday's meeting.
About 100 people -- students, teachers, parents and taxpayers -- sat in the gym for an hour and a half to listen to the possibilities and ask questions.
Board President Billie Hoekman said the issues are caused by the growing number of students and the fire code regulations requiring that facilities for K-2 students be on one level. The school has made accommodations, but Hoekman said, "they will not work long term."
A new kitchen, lunch room and classroom addition would be the ideal solution, what Hoekman called their "grand idea." However, the price tag for such a K-6 addition is $2.7 million. Scaling it down to a K-2 would lower the cost to just over $2 million.
Initial feedback from the letters caused the school to look at a second plan for a kitchen and commons that could seat at least 72. This would alleviate the issues of the kitchen staff hauling food to an elementary lunchroom located off the gym. The price tag for that plan would be $709,000, said Chris Schiltz from Koch Hazard architectural firm in Sioux Falls. Their designs would allow for further expansion at a later date, but Thursday night's meeting, Hoekman said, was "all about deciding what we need, what we want and how to pay for it."
Definite needs were a larger dining room and kitchen on the main floor, main level restrooms, and a larger special education room. A better septic system "is one of the bigger priorities, if nothing else," Hoekman said. Larger classrooms and more seating in the gym with better locker rooms were a "want."
Tim Breske asked when the listed wants would become needs. Hoekman said some of that would be based on enrollment, some on input from the community. "We never want to do anything the community does not support," she said.
Schiltz said all the plans were designed so the district "could easily add on as needed," but he said that kitchens and bathrooms are expensive to build. The budget estimate of $709,000 for the simple yet efficient kitchen/commons design did not include the necessary new septic system. Construction could be block, steel, wood or some combination, Schiltz said, but wood construction would require a sprinkler system, not included in the plan.
He also said that in South Dakota, construction costs go up about six percent a year, so there is an economy of scale.
Roger Johnson wondered if five years down the road the school decided to make an addition bigger, "Why not do the big one right away?"
Other monetary issues came up, including interest rates, which would be about 4.5 percent; the length of a potential bond would be 20 years. There were questions on taxes, whether the potential bond issue would be on property valuations or ag taxations.
Superintendent Carl Fahrenwald said that about 85 percent of the district's valuation is ag, and board member Terry Wicks added that land is priced on production value.
For the "grand idea," that would raise taxes at about $1.9/$1,000 valuation; for the conservative plan it would be about $1/$1,000.
If the district were to build again in a few years, the bond could be refinanced. The smallest, conservative version could be paid without a bond, through capital outlay, Fahrenwald said.
Branden Sievers asked about the cost of adding K-2 to the scaled-down commons version. Schiltz said he could get those numbers to Fahrenwald.
The school would also have to pay operating costs on the new square footage. Fahrenwald admitted the school would have to be able to absorb utilities, etc., through general funds and still be able to give teachers raises. Sievers brought up the question of energy efficiency, and Wicks noted the addition would use geothermal heat.
Enrollment statistics were discussed. Since the district has a large number of open enrolled students, Nicki Hegdahl asked for some statistics about those students.
"The open enrollment situation gets enormously complicated because students come and go quickly," Fahrenwald said. "[Our} overall population continues to climb."
One patron asked about kindergarten enrollment projections. Hoekman said the numbers change year by year, and the five-year projection numbers range from 14 for fall of 2014, to six in the fall of 2018. This fall's class has 21 students.
Students asked questions as well. Remembering how important recess was when he was in elementary school, Noah Wicks asked what would happen to the playground. It would likely go to the north side of the proposed addition, Hoekman said.
Haley Hopf asked what would happen when the larger classes got to high school. Hoekman said that if the elementary grades were in the new addition, that would open up the current building for renovation to middle and high school students.
Schiltz said the current current building could be demolished, and a mirror addition could be built to the west side of the proposed commons.
Hoekman said they received 75 responses to the letter; 40 were in favor of building something, 17 were undecided, and 18 were "no."
©Madison Daily Leader 2013