Board approves plan that calls for bond for school addition

NEW ULM – With the understanding that it is a flexible document that may change in reaction to public input and other factors, the District 88 School Board on Thursday approved a 10-year facilities plan that calls for a bond issue for a high school addition.

According to the document, developed by the board’s Facilities Committee after more than a year of deliberation, the plan calls for: preparation for sale of the District Administrative Center (DAC); developing the athletic fields as a contest site; and space planning for gymnastics.

It also calls for exploring plans for the redesign of existing shop space to be converted into an Engineering and Technology Center.

The plan urges addressing the following matters during the upcoming school year: development of a communications plan for the bond; establishment of a task force of staff, community members, parents and students; soliciting input from the community, parents, students and staff on needs and design; commissioning an engineering/architectural draft of the building addition plans; preparing/submitting necessary paperwork to the Minnesota Department of Education for a building addition; developing a financing plan for the proposed addition; abandoning the DAC as office space; and sale of the DAC.

These steps would not necessarily happen in the order listed, noted officials.

Under the timeline presented in the document, a suggested target date for a bond referendum is the fall of 2014. If the referendum passes, construction would start in the spring of 2015.

During 2014-15, the district would develop a plan for the relocation of grade levels from one building to another, to accommodate construction.

The approved document calls for construction to continue in 2015-16 and the new addition to be occupied in 2016-17.

Throughout the 10-year period covered, the plan incorporates ongoing maintenance and upkeep projects, such as roofing and security upgrades. Such projects would be funded with capital and deferred maintenance funds, not bonds.

The plan also incorporates elements that would accommodate the expansion of pre-school programming, potentially in 2017-18, and many other steps.

During the discussion that preceded the document’s unanimous approval, board member Patricia Hoffman noted that this is the first time an actual document of this kind has been presented to the entire board. She cautioned about the possibility that the public might see the document as “set in stone.”

Board Chair Duane Winter, who has worked on the issues involved as a Facilities Committee member, noted that the plan is based on a timeline that outlines a sequence of steps.

“We’ve tried to be as inclusive as we can, and as purposeful as we can,” Winter said, referring to what he sees as a comprehensive list of needs.

He also said he sees the issues referenced as “a community project” that would involve a variety of groups and interests in the process.

Also during the presentation, Superintendent Jeff Bertrang handed out a more detailed, month-by-month, schedule that goes with the plan.

The schedule lists stages such as: “a research and development phase” that incorporates opportunities for community feedback between now and next May; “a referendum phase” that includes MDE review and comment and a publicity campaign between next May and October 2014; “a community vote” phase in November 2014; and potential “design” and “construction” phases thereafter.

In other business, the board hired a new technology director, at a salary of $58,000 and on a two-year contract; and approved a line-of-credit resolution that would cut down on interest costs incurred at times the district needs to borrow short-term for cash-flow needs, according to officials.

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