By Jan Rahn
Presentations during two school board meetings last week gave district patrons an overview of findings from a year-long facility study. Superintendent Tobin Buchanan, two architects and a construction manager described two options being considered by the Perkins County Board of Education in what the future holds for the three school buildings in the county.
Board members, the superintendent, architects and builder fielded questions from the public at a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Madrid and a second meeting Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the high school in Grant.
Below are some of the questions posed, along with answers regarding the district’s school buildings if either of the two options is decided upon.
• Option 1: Demolish the 1921 three-story structure in Madrid and construct new single story space for middle school students at the current site at a cost of approximately $5 million.
• Option 2: Close the middle school site. Send sixth graders to the elementary building in Grant; construct classroom space at the high school in Grant for the seventh-eighth graders; build a new gym with new kitchen/commons area at a cost of approximately $6 million.
Q: What would the total classroom area be for junior high students if a new facility was built in Grant?
A: 4,500 square feet of new construction would be created for seventh and eighth grade students if they came to the high school. [Middle school sixth graders would attend the elementary facility].
Q: There are 9,000 square feet in Madrid now, why would there only be 4,500 square feet built in Grant?
A: It would only take four classrooms because only seventh-eighth graders would be added to the high school facility. Those students would have access to the art room, music room, and other space already available at the high school. No new classrooms would be required at the elementary school.
Q: What changes would be needed at the elementary to accommodate the sixth graders?
A: It is believed there is already enough room for the sixth graders and the only immediate change would be in the front entry for security purposes.
Q: What is the enrollment?
A: It fluctuates yearly, but the census indicates kindergarten classes will be around 30 pupils for the next two years. Including preschoolers, there are 400 students being served this year. The average class size fluctuates year to year, but no major decline in enrollment is foreseen.
Q: Do you expect more students to opt out of the district if the Madrid site closes?
A: This is unknown; maybe some students would opt in because of the new facility and widespread programs available in the Perkins County District as a whole. Geographics and family situations would be the determining factor for individual students.
Q: What would be done with the old building in Madrid if it was closed?
A: This is undetermined, and will not be seriously pursued until there is a firm answer made by the board on what is to happen with the facility.
Q: Where would parking be at the high school in Grant if a new addition took up the space north of the school?
A: The old bus barn would be moved and the space across the gravel road on the north side of the school could be used for parking.
Q: Where would football practice take place [for junior high] if necessary?
A: At the elementary field.
Q: Does Madrid facility need mostly updates?
A: It needs heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, floor and window updates, which are things already done at the Grant buildings. The $5 million cost is just to do demolition and build a new one-story building.
Q: Has any thought been given to creating a tornado shelter in any of the facilities?
A: Yes, any new structure would provide an opportunity for a shelter, with the requirement being three square feet per person.
Q: Has consideration been made as to what’s best for the students—have you considered building just for junior high to function better?
A: The goal is to think long term in providing an environment for seventh and eighth graders who won’t mix with high schoolers, yet have access to the lunchroom, music room, etc.
Q: Would the district borrow money for new construction?
A: Financing isn’t something to look at; money could be saved up; it could be borrowed; the district can tax up to a $1.05 levy without a vote.
Q: Who has the power to decide what the future of the district’s buildings will be?
A: It takes four votes [from the school board] to close any building. It would not require a vote of the people. However, the board would not be opposed to a public vote.
Q: What would be the timeline for new construction?
A: The time allotted for bid, added design time, plus construction could take up to two years.
Q: Why would middle school classrooms go from six at the current Madrid site down to four if the students were moved to Grant?
A: Only four classrooms would be needed for academics, as students would be sharing special services classroms with high schools, such as music, art, industrial arts.
Q: If “nothing” is done, what kind of expenses would be incurred?
A: The answer to that is not known until a decision is made by the school board. Regardless, to bring the Madrid facility up to code, HVAC (heating/air), lighting and roof replacement are necessary.
Q: If Option 2 is chosen, what would be the cost of a new gym compared to new classrooms?
A: The cost of a new gym would be approximately $110 per square foot; classrooms would run from $145 to $165 per square foot. The new gym would be one-third of the total project. Classrooms and a new commons/kitchen area would be two-thirds of the project.
Q: Is more gym space really needed?
A: If another gym is not built at the Grant site, there would be only one gym plus the multi-purpose room for all grades and boys/girls practices and games. This would result in very early or very late time frames for students.
Q: What is the economic pull of Option 2 if new construction took place at the high school?
A: A new state-of-the art school would be a draw to young families looking at moving to the area, plus there would probably be area students choosing to opt into the district.
Q: What about security at all of the sites?
A: Each of the buildings is supposed to have someone in the offices up front at all times. New construction would solve this issue, as anyone entering the buildings would be forced to pass through an office area where school personnel would be present.