SCHOOL FORUMS ON IMPROVEMENTS
By Pam Reinig
A number of forums are being held this week to share an updated remodeling plan for Central Schools. The plan is the result of several months’ work by a facilities committee.
The Register asked Superintendent Nick Trenkamp several questions about the updated plan. Our questions and his answer follow:
Q. What are the nuts and bolts of the proposed facility project?
A. It has been +40 years since Central’s K-12 building has undergone any major improvements and at that time the major improvement was an addition. The majority of our building hasn’t been touched since originally built. The revised improvement plan includes: Replacing original mechanical; making our K-12 building 100 percent handicap accessible; making our K-12 building secure and safe; an additional 4,400sf of academic space; an additional 2,000sf of commons space; and improved parking and sidewalks around the K-12 building
Q. How was the project conceived, i.e., how did you decide on what to include and who was involved?
A. A facility committee was formed in June and made up of the following members (year they graduated Central):
Brad (1982) & MaryJo Bergan, Kevin Bergan (1982), Jarod Bormann, Ron Bossard, Dana Burns, Stacey Embretson (1999), Bill/Diane Erickson (1969), Michael Erickson (1990), Nick Fettkether (1997), Jered Finley, Jamie/ Amy Hammersland, Ed Hertrampf (1991), Tom or Agnes Kenny (1968), Cletus Keppler (1994), Dennis O’Brien (1971), Josh Pope, Roger Thomas, Ken Reimer, Jamie (1999)/Molly Scherf (1999), Tammy Scherf (1981), Joe Shirbroun, Tim (1992)/Wendy Walz, Steve Wagner (1985), Cheryl Whittle, & Mike Whittle (1992).
This facility committee was chosen to better represent our voting population and purposefully included people that voted against the 2015 improvement plan. The facility committee reviewed the 2015 improvement plan, elections results, voter survey results, toured a remodeled building in Decorah, met with a financial advisor, and had multiple meetings/walkthroughs with the architect.
Q. How does this project differ from the one proposed several months ago?
A. Many similarities still exist with a concentration on replacing outdated mechanical, improving safety and security, and getting our K-12 building ADA compliant. The biggest change is increasing academic space and a stronger flow to improve efficiency of time and public use, as well as a decrease in cost.
Q. What’s the cost and proposed funding formula?
A. When the facility improvement plan was not approved in June 2015, the school board moved forward with replacing our boiler system using existing funds. This cut approximately $800,000 off of the original improvement plan. The facility committee also cut another $500,000 from the previous plan through revisions of the plan. Unfortunately the cost of construction and materials has also gone up since 2015, by approximately $1 million dollars. The cost estimate of the 2015 plan was $7.3 million. The estimated cost of the revised plan is $6.8 million. Currently the school board is hosting public forums to get community input on financing options and ways to bring that cost down even further.
Q. What’s the proposed timeline, assuming funding is secured?
A. The timeline ultimately depends on how much space we can free up during a school year. The more space we can free up the faster the project can get completed. Once construction starts we are hopeful it can be completed within three years.
Q. In addition to the four public forums, how can people provide input?
A. The public forums are a starting point to receive feedback on the revised plan. If the feedback is largely positive, more tours and public forums will be set up as well as meetings with local business leaders and community groups. We welcome people to come tour our building anytime. People are also encouraged to contact their elected board members for more information (board member contact information can be found on Central’s website).
Q. If this project moves forward, how will it position the school? In other words, will there be other infrastructure needs in the near future?
A. We do have another project we are exploring that is not included in the revised improvement plan in which we update our HVAC systems along the riverside classrooms and update all the Middle School and High School classrooms. According to our facility needs assessment and long term planning done by Struxture Architects, the revised plan addresses most of our major needs for the next +20 years. With Elkader being the county seat and companies like MTS expanding, the need for an updated school building is as strong today as it has ever been.