By Tim Linscott
It is a done deal...the Perkins County Board of Education agreed on Monday, June 9 to move forward with a building addition to the high school with a price tag of $7.5 million.
School board members discussed several options on the future of the high school building and the middle school in Madrid.
One option was to add on to the high school with new classrooms, a new kitchen area and a new gym with locker rooms. The same scenario without new locker rooms was discussed as was doing nothing at all with either building.
Board members have been talking for over a year about adding a high school addition, closing the Madrid middle school and making the elementary school kindergarten through sixth grade. Grades seven, eight and nine would be housed in the new addition.
The notion of moving forward without doing the addition was quickly dismissed by the board and PCS board member Ryan Hendricks pondered how much the new locker rooms would be used.
The option of not adding the locker rooms in the project was bantered around in recent months by the board. By not adding the locker rooms a total of around $500,000 could be saved overall. The design of the project would allow the locker rooms to be put on at a later date.
Jayson Bishop, a building and grounds committee member for the board, explained that in the fall the need for six locker rooms would be used three to four nights during the season and another four to five nights of five locker rooms would be needed. A total of seven occasions would be necessary for at least four locker rooms in the fall season.
Bishop used this year’s schedule as a basis for the projection of locker room use.
A total of 14-16 nights in nine weeks, or roughly a day and a half a week, would require multiple locker rooms-- more than are available now.
In the winter a total of seven nights of six locker rooms would be needed, again using last school year’s schedule as a basis.
A total of 12 occasions in seven weeks would be necessary, according to Bishop.
The notion of having junior high students change at the elementary and then travel to the high school was discussed, but ultimately, the board felt the new locker rooms were warranted.
“I don’t think junior high boys and high school boys should be sharing locker rooms,” Hendricks said.
Board member Amy Kroeker felt if the board was going to put on an addition, either the locker rooms go on now or never.
“I don’t want to come back to this in six years and add on locker rooms,” Kroeker said. “I don’t want to go through this again.”
Hendricks said waiting to add the locker rooms could add 35 percent to the cost in as little as five years.
School board president Shawn Turner felt adding the locker rooms now was ‘getting the most bang for your buck’ when it came to spending tax dollars.
Examining details of the layout of the addition, a mezzanine above the locker rooms will be used for storage and not a weight room. Bishop explained it is not enough space for a weight room and not wide enough for a new wrestling room.
“It will be used for storage or some other use. If you have someone rehabbing an injury and they are working out, you don’t want them maneuvering stairs,” Bishop said.
Turner pointed out that when he was first on the school board, 14 years ago, a study was conducted for the district and the lunchroom facilities and kitchen area were deemed inadequate.
“The lunchroom is out front for me. It is the number one thing to be addressed. There is no way to remodel it as it is right now,” Turner said.
The current lunchroom is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and Bishop explained the new addition will rectify the situation.
“The traffic flow is not ideal and could be improved upon,” Bishop said.
Future use for the lunchroom facilities after the new facilities are built would be used during prom and community activities.
The current lunchroom at one time was the industrial arts area of the high school. Looking into converting it back may be examined by the board at a future date.
There will be potential parking areas lost with the new addition, as a drop off area for buses and parents is in the design of the new addition.
Moving forward and securing a school for the community and the county was important to all the board members.
“I have thought about this a lot. For the future of the community and the school, this is the best option,” Hendricks said.
Turner pointed out that 80 years ago country schools were popular, now consolidation has closed many schools throughout the state and even in Perkins County.
“If the county doesn’t pull together, in 20 to 30 years we will be in real trouble,” Turner said.
Scott Osler felt doing what was best for the district as a whole was important.
“I have to vote for what is best for the district. Doing nothing is not an option. We have spent a few years and some money doing this,” Osler said. “I don’t want to close Madrid, but we have to do what is conducive for a good education for the students.”
“We have to keep moving forward or we fall behind. This is the best option forward for educating our kids. It gives the junior high students some chances to be exposed to some of the high school instructors and experiences,” Bishop said.
Kroeker noted that the issue has divided some people in the county but the decision to move forward is one that the board feels is best.
“The $7.5 million figure is a hard number to swallow. This is not easy but there are no real options without making pretty big sacrifices,” Kroeker said.
With property taxes continuing to rise, it is crucial to maintain a prudent use of tax dollars, Turner and Hendricks pointed out.
Hendricks noted that keeping a mindful eye on taxpayer dollars is a huge responsibility.
“As a board, we are entrusted with a lot of money. This is the best route to go at this juncture,” he said.
Turner feels the board is up to the task.
“The valuation is up, but it is our job to have that not be a factor,” Turner said.