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R-P looking at phased new facility

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jul 20th, 2012
Posted in Peterson Education

After losing out on various state funding for its New School Initiative for a new pre-K-12 facility, R-P is leaving no stone unturned looking at alternative options. This includes an option for a two-part phased construction of the facility instead of a one-time construction.

A proposal by Dean Beeninga and Eric Anderson of ATS&R and Gary Benson of ICS Consulting has given the district new material to digest that begins with a “Phase One” facility that would house either pre-K-4 or pre-K-5. With the phased scenario, the district is could be looking at a 2013 construction and 2014 occupancy. Once a plan is selected, a five-month design time is needed before the district can go out for bidding. First, however, the community would need to back the $14 million project through a referendum.

The project would allow for flexibility at the facility, including pre-K programs, with three rooms designated for pre-K and kindergarten levels, and two rooms, plus an extra “swing room” for each grade 1 through 4. The merits of having fifth grade students with either the older or younger grades is up for debate, as is the need for retrofitting the current elementary facility to serve older students. The middle school students would essentially move into 11 of the elementary rooms, as well as some shared spaces with the high school students, but the current elementary facility is geared towards younger students and some areas would need upgrading.

“If the masterplan is leaving, it’s tough to put money into the facilities,” noted Beeninga, who did acknowledge that upgrades would have to be made.

“The community cares what happens to these buildings,” countered board member Beth Stanford.

“Over the years, you’ve moved into every corner, every closet that you could. You’ll need to move into the best spaces possible for air quality, teaching, and needs,” added Beeninga.

The district will have its principals conduct a work study to see how the big picture of a middle school to elementary facility move would fit together. An estimate on retrofitting costs will also need to be known. A special meeting for August 8 at 5:30pm, has been designated to allow the board to completely analyze the various options and impacts.

As to when a possible referendum could show up on a ballot for the community, it appears the majority favor late 2012. According to ICS Consultant Benson, only a 10-12 week referendum campaign is needed to get the word out in the community. “At this point, it really shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise,” he noted.

“It’s critical that we have all our ducks in a row,” responded Ehler.

“I like a November vote,” responded Stanford. “People are waiting for the other shoe to drop. In November, more people are out voting because of general elections.”

According to Ehler, a November ballot is unrealistic since the DEED funding for which the district has applied for won’t be known until at least September and notification of a referendum on a ballot would need to be in by August 20. Board members Greg Smith and Angela Colbenson, along with Ehler, felt a December referendum would be doable, but no final decision has been made.

“What is your backup plan if it doesn’t pass the first time,” questioned Beeninga.

“I don’t think we should even discuss failing,” responded Metz. “We’re going for it and that’s it.”

“I agree,” added Stanford. “This decision is based on task force recommendations and public surveys from the community that said to go for it.”

It is expected that the district will make its decision on a referendum date at the special meeting August 8. The public is encouraged to attend. The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, August 20, at 5:30pm, in the high school biology room.

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