Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Facility Needs Committee Recommends New School

Brad Simonson, left, an architect with HSR Associates, points out some improvements that could be made at Greenfield Elementary School if two grades were moved out of the building. At left is construction manager (and Baldwin native) John Huenink of Kraus-Anderson Construction Company. Both have been working with a committee of Baldwin-Woodville residents on plans to relieve overcrowding especially at Greenfield and Viking Middle School.

A conceptional site plan of the intermediate school was provided by the committee.

A new school building for Baldwin-Woodville? That's the recommendation from the Community Facility Needs Exploratory Committee to the school board at Monday night's regular monthly
B-W Board of Education meeting.

The committee was formed by the board last April with community members who responded to advertising for volunteers.Also serving on the committee are school employees, Superintendent Rusty Helland, and school board member Jeff Campbell. John Huenink, construction manager from Kraus-Anderson, and architect Brad Simonson of HSR provided technical assistance to the committee.

Over the past eight months, the committee met ten times to research, analyze data and brainstorm. In the end, their recommendation is that an intermediate school for grades three through five with six sections at each level should be built. The recommended location for the 90,000 square foot building is north of Greenfield Elementary, just west of the parking lot that currently serves the High School. Estimated price tag is $16,494,000 according to preliminary cost figures provided by Kraus-Anderson.

Beth Meyers, chairman of the committee, presented a power point outlining the groups' activities to this point. "We toured all the buildings, including old Viking," she said. "Old" Viking is presently owned by Albrightson Excavating. In addition, committee members interviewed people involved in the past building project.

"Lessons learned from the past project include the need to plan further out than five years," Meyers said. The committee's goal is to plan for the next 20 years she added.

Another lesson learned was the need to hire a construction management firm that is independent of the architectural firm, said Meyers. That provides a system of checks and balances, she said.

Currently the High School has 455 students and can handle 600, so that building is in the best shape numbers-wise said Meyers.

Viking Middle School is at capacity with 472 students, using what was intended as a meeting/community room by dividing it into two classrooms, according to Principal Hank Dupuis. While classrooms were planned to be added at Viking according to the original plan, the core areas such as cafeteria and library are not large enough to handle the increased capacity said Simonson. Currently, grades five through eight are at Viking.

Greenfield Elementary Principal Gary Hoffman reported that 587 students are presently at that school and conditions are crowded. Lack of classroom space, inadequate computer labs and small library, cafeteria, art and music rooms are the main problems at Greenfield. Grades kindergarten through fourth are presently at Greenfield.

After doing the research, the committee narrowed their options to two: buying back "old" Viking and remodeling, or building a new intermediate school for grades three through five. The efficiencies of a new building prevailed.

Meyers said the committee thinks it is essential that the district fix the leaks at Viking and the High School before putting a referendum before the public in April, 2008.

The school board will devote the December meeting to further discussion of the plan.

Members of the committee are Bob Basques, Scott Benoy, Jackie Bensen, Warren Benson, Jeff Campbell, Jane Erickson, Nan Jordahl, Mark Lebo, Beth Meyers, Dennis Paquette, Ken Peterson, Larry Spoo, Jerry Strobush, Greg Wevers, Amy Wicker, Mike Timm, and Rusty Helland.

In other business at Monday's meeting, the board approved up to $9,457.50 toward new playground equipment at Greenfield Elementary. Principal Hoffman explained he is applying for a 50 percent grant from Gametime, a playground equipment company, to fund the remainder of the cost. Board President Jeff Campbell suggested that Hoffman contact the Village of Baldwin for a contribution from the parks fund.

Following a closed session, the board expelled two High School students for possession of drugs on school grounds. The buyer of the drugs was expelled until the end of the 2007-08 school year, but may be readmitted second semester if certain criteria set by the school board are met. The seller was expelled until the end of the 2008-09 school year, but may be readmitted in September of 2008 if certain criteria set by the school board are met.