CR school board authorizes April 7 bond referendum

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By Molly Moser

During their February meeting, the Clayton Ridge School Board voted to accept a school improvement petition with 117 signatures from community members. The board has decided to hold a special election on April 7 to request the issue of up to $10 million in general obligation bonds for the purpose of renovating school buildings in Guttenberg. Public hearing dates have been set for March 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the middle school auditorium in Garnavillo and March 30 at 7:00 p.m. in the high school gym in Guttenberg. 

“I believe the board identified the needs for school facility improvements after months of planning and several opportunities to receive community input. The next step is to determine if the public will support a plan that meets those needs,” said Nelson. “We need to learn what the public wants us to do. If the bond referendum fails by a large margin, we will need to change the scope of the project. If the bond election passes or is close, we are on the right track.”

Plan M has been released for public view and is pictured in this issue of The Guttenberg Press. The plan is also available for viewing on the school’s website. Board members and administration believe this plan emphasizes student safety and enhanced accessibility. 

Plan breakdown: The 1903 building will be demolished and replaced by a single-story structure that is capable of supporting a second story if needed in the future. When parents, students, and visitors arrive at the proposed school building, they will step onto the curb and arrive through a supervised, central point of entry that remains at street level – one key element of the plan that remains constant throughout. The entry area, located on the north side of what is now the 1903 building and labeled in the plan with a red arrow marked ‘Main Entrance,’ will be located adjacent to all administrative offices for both the elementary and high school, as well as guidance counselors and the school nurse. 

A commons area, which will serve as cafeteria as well as meeting space, is labeled in orange on the plan, and readers will notice a yellow corridor that makes all three buildings accessible at street level. An enclosed corridor passing over the gym will connect the second story of the elementary to the second story of the high school, and a centrally located elevator will allow transport up or down from street level. Centrally located mechanical rooms will power, heat, and cool both the high school and the elementary more efficiently.

A new gymnasium, labeled in green on the plan, will also be at street level – raised considerably from its current floor. “People wonder why we want to demolish the gym,” said board member Mike Finnegan. “With 100 years worth of renovations to that structure, we feel it is cheaper and safer to demolish it than work around it.” The roof on the gym has already been raised during other remodeling projects, and it is believed that the structure could not withstand another roof raising – which would be necessary to make the gym floor and bleachers accessible at street level.

Below the gym, a badly-needed wrestling room, weight room, and locker rooms will replace the current facilities. Windows will let natural light into the wrestling and weight rooms. Additional storage and a mechanical room are also mapped in the inset area, which depicts the lower level plan.

The current kitchen, multipurpose room, and stage would be demolished and made into restrooms, a concession stand, athletic storage, and a library/media center with windows overlooking the river. No expansion will take place to the east, toward the river, as the school has already reached its property boundaries. 

South of the gym, board members hope new music facilities will serve both school and community needs. Currently, there are 2,940 square feet dedicated to the elementary and high school music classrooms and offices. In the proposed plan, labeled in brown, that space will be expanded to include the current VIP area and restrooms. A potential folding door could open music classrooms into the gym, allowing risers and stands to be set up and performers to be visible to an audience from their classroom. Music rooms would be engineered for proper acoustics. 

“It was estimated that building a new auditorium would cost $3 million, and we just didn’t have the budget,” Finnegan told The Press. Total square footage dedicated to music in the new plan would be 3,190 square feet.

Readers will also notice several remodeled classrooms and an IT/Data room that result from the consolidation of administrative offices. 

“We need to seriously be guided by what is best for all young people,” said Mayor Russ Loven. He quotes Winston Churchill’s saying, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”

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