Operational, other costs may affect recommendations for Dist. 88

NEW ULM – As a task force of volunteers mulls strategic facility options for District 88, administrators have shared information about operational and rental costs that may help the decision-making process.

Facility upgrades being considered include a potential addition to the high school and changing grade distribution among buildings. The prospective high school addition would include a new auditorium and gym, offices, cafeteria and kitchen, with common areas geared toward meeting both school and community needs.

Vacating the former middle school and vacating and removing portable classroom at the high school campus are two expressly stated goals of the strategic facility planning process. According to school officials, these actions would save the district some operational costs, which should be balanced against the cost of potential new construction.

The former middle school, located between North State and Washington streets and just off Center Street, costs about $60,000 to $70,000 a year to operate, according to Facilities Director Scott Hogen.

This building, constructed in 1915, is closed to classes. However, the district continues to operate its auditorium and gym. The district also uses parts of the building as office space for the superintendent and other district-wide administrators.

The district is negotiating with a private group on terms for the sale of this building, with the next meeting scheduled for late January.

The former middle school building has been deemed too costly to remodel for classes. A few years ago, it was estimated that it would cost more than $10 million to remodel it in line with new building codes.

The portable classrooms – installed on the high school campus on South Payne Street after the district closed the middle school and moved seventh- and eight-graders to the high school – cost about $38,000 per year to lease, according to Hogen. This number excludes operating costs. The portable classrooms, which are used for high school math classes, are stand-alone units and involve inconvenient transitions by students leaving the main building.

If school facilities are upgraded, the district may also be able to save some (although not all) of the fees it currently pays to rent space for athletic programs and some health and physical education classes. Last year’s rental fees totaled about $42,307, and this year’s fees are expected to total about $44,316, reported officials.

Rental fees go toward renting space for programs such as football, volleyball, soccer, hockey, baseball, basketball and gymnastics. Most fees go to the city of New Ulm. Some go to other entities: Martin Luther College (about $1,000-$1,125), New Ulm Area Gymnastics Association (about $6,000), and the Armory ($100-$200).

Unlike other programs, soccer-related rental fees, $1,000-plus a year, are paid by the New Ulm Area Soccer Association, not the district. Also unlike other programs, the district has the authority to levy for ice rental fees, a combined $30,000-plus a year, instead of funding them out of its operating budget.

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