Friday, November 15, 2013

School District considering more construction

Proposed 2014 school projects could exceed $2 million


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters says the school’s cafeteria is overcrowded and has an industrial-type setting, a problem that would be solved if the Blaine County School District board of trustees approves funding to expand and change the design of the cafeteria. Students are shown here in 2012, when consideration of expanding the cafeteria facility was in the planning stages. Photo by Willy Cook

    Continuing with a construction program that started in 2010, the Blaine County School District is considering spending more than $2 million on projects for the summer of 2014.
    Proposed plans for next year’s projects were unveiled by district Business Manager Mike Chatterton at a school board meeting Tuesday night. The plans include projects at Wood River Middle School, Hemingway Elementary School and Woodside Elementary School.
    All of the proposed expenditures remain subject to approval of the school board, which only heard the plans Tuesday and took no formal action. Funding, as with construction projects completed since 2010, would come from a $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009.
    The Middle School and Hemingway projects are mainly work that was earlier planned for 2013. Chatterton told the school board that those projects were held back for a year because of time constraints and because of uncertainties regarding the multi-million-dollar litigation between the School District and its energy contractor McKinstry Essention. The litigation ended in October when the parties reached an out-of-court settlement.
    The Woodside work would be to add two new classrooms to accommodate the Dual Immersion Magnate School to be established at Woodside for the coming school year.
Middle School
    The proposed Middle School work would cost an estimated $761,000 and would include expansion of the gymnasium and cafeteria and improvement to indoor air quality.
    “One thing we found when we were going through the building with the McKinstry thing was that the Middle School had the poorest air quality of any school in the district,” Chatterton said, referring to a facilities assessment conducted by McKinstry prior to the plant facilities levy vote.
    Chatterton said air-quality improvements were made this year in one-third of the building by installing “energy ventilation recovery systems” in the area where construction is under way to build a new wing for four new classrooms. Construction on the wing is expected to be completed around the beginning of 2014.
    He said the gymnasium and cafeteria are now overcrowded because the number of students at the Middle School has increased, although enrollment overall in the district has remained flat for the past few years.
    Middle School Principal Fritz Peters said enrollment now is about 685, whereas a few years ago it was closer to 630.
    “The population keeps getting bigger and bigger each year,” Peters said.
    He said the cafeteria in particular is overcrowded and has an “industrial-type feeling.”
    “It’s functional, but it’s not environmentally friendly and it’s not student friendly,” Peters said. “That constant level of crowding has just been really frustrating.”
Hemingway Elementary
    Work at Hemingway that was planned earlier but not part of the contract for construction this year includes laying new carpet, remodeling the bathrooms and building a small addition so that the cafeteria can be expanded. Chatterton said the district has about $540,000 saved from work done this year that should cover the most of the cost.
    Work this year included the drilling of geothermal heat source wells; replacement of the building’s heating, ventilation and air cooling system; improvements to the lighting system; door retrofits; and installation of a roof drainage system to prevent winter ice from accumulating on the east side of the building.
    Chatterton said that like the Middle School, Hemingway also has overcrowding problems with its cafeteria.
    “That cafeteria has not been remodeled since the original building was built in 1972,” he said. “It takes four lunch periods to get those kids through the cafeteria now.”
    Another project planned is to repave the front parking lot and improve the lighting. He said a redesign of the parking lot should also be considered to improve the traffic flow. He estimated a redesign could cost as much as $700,000.
Woodside Elementary
    The school board voted earlier this year to convert Woodside Elementary School in southern Hailey into a Dual Immersion “magnet school,” with studies, beginning next school year, to be exclusively taught in both English and Spanish. The plan involves moving current Dual Immersion programs at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools to Woodside and moving non-Dual Immersion students at Woodside to Hailey or Bellevue.
    Under the current plan, the change requires reducing the limit for Dual Immersion students K-5 from 600 to 528. The proposed construction for Woodside would be to expand the number of existing classrooms from 22 to 24, which would allow the elementary school Dual Immersion limit to remain at its current level.
    Chatterton said several options have been considered but a remodel of the area previously used for the district’s Autism Disorder Spectrum program, which will be moved to Hailey Elementary School next year, is the one he prefers. The estimated cost for the remodel is $179,000.
    Another option considered was moving a portable building from Carey School to Woodside. However, Chatterton said the estimated cost for that, including the move, installation of utilities, remodeling the building, and installing paving, landscaping and sidewalks is $287,000.
    Woodside Principal Brad Henson said he prefers the remodel option because using portable classrooms would disrupt the flow of the school.
    The school board seemed to agree.
    “The more we can do to get away [from] portables, the better off we’ll all be in the long run,” said board Vice Chairman Shawn Bennion.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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