School Building Group Asks For Third OptionIssue Date: October 4, 2017
At a meeting on Monday, Sept. 25 the Peshtigo School District Citizens' Advisory Committee heard presentations from Miron Consultants and Sommerville Architects on two proposed solutions to Middle School/High School building needs. They discussed the options and took the reports home to study before meeting again on Monday, Oct. 2.
After some long and serious discussion at that Oct. 2 meeting, committee members agreed they want at least a third option to consider, and would also like a chance to express their ideas for remodeling, and get an idea what the cost would be. They tentatively agreed that continuing to aim for a referendum vote for financing in April is being over ambitious. It is more likely the referendum question, whichever option is recommended, will be put to the voters in November.
One of the proposals presented on Sept. 25 is for reconstruction/remodeling of the existing building. That option carries a tentative price tag of $30,835,000. The other, for construction of an entirely new facility on property the school district purchased two years ago for a proposed new school that was rejected by electors at a referendum election, would cost a projected $34,100,000 this time around.
Both options include provisions for a 3-station gymnasium capable of hosting tournaments, etc., but neither provides for the 500-seat auditorium for musical and dramatic performances that was deemed highly desirable the last time around.
Committee members were not completely happy with the options presented. Chair Clarence Coble in particular said he would not support a remodeling project that built a new building basically wrapped around the shell of the old one.
They all felt a third option, to possibly build a free-standing gymnasium complex on the other side of Trout Creek, should be looked at. They felt that option would enable planners to make changes in the existing building to meet educational needs without greatly expanding it.
Miron consultant Craig Sachs, who was present for the Oct. 2 meeting, said the architects may be able to get the third option information together in a week. Tentatively the committee scheduled another meeting for 6 pm. Monday, Oct. 16 at the high school.
The option of a separate Middle School building was discussed but discarded due to the greatly increased operating costs it would create.
Committee member Tricia Kleikamp is working with a committee preparing questions for a community survey designed partly to educate the public, but mainly to determine what features are important to residents of the district, and which options might and might not be acceptable to them. The survey tentatively will go forward on schedule, even if the referendum vote is put off until November.
Present for the Oct. 2 meeting in addition to Coble and Sachs were committee members Jason Malke, Rick Thill, Jeff Hartwig, Bryan Schroeder, Rebecca DeMarce, and Rebecca Beaver.
Coble noted they had all received the reports a week earlier and now had time to study them. He said people had questions but he hesitated to talk to committee members about them one on one because of walking quorum problems.
"I have some very great concerns," he declared, obviously not happy with the reports.
"When I took this on (leadership of the committee) I told the 50 to 60 people in the auditorium that we would look at this thoroughly, share ideas and select the lowest cost solution." He said he expected the designers to get incorporate ideas from committee members on which way they should go, and added, "I had a lot of ideas for remodeling this building that I feel are less expensive than this plan." He said he had received lots of calls from people who felt they should not build all around the old building. That happened with the 1983 addition, which is when they should have put up a new building, he commented. He said he could not support the remodeling plan presented, but still felt remodeling could be a viable option by incorporating other ideas.
As to cost, Coble noted Baird, the financial advisor, told them the maximum the district could borrow would be about $34,500, "and this in bumping up against that!"
The district is putting money away in each budget for renovations/remodeling in case the referendum should fail, and waiting until November for the referendum would put another $400,000 in that fund before building time came, reducing the amount they would need to borrow.
He felt they could not meet the goal of a referendum vote in April.
"We said at the start that this April was very aggressive for a referendum," Sachs replied.
Coble also objected that the plans presented at the last meeting were much the same as had been rejected the last time around. He suggested getting ideas that committee members felt could be done, put up a flip chart, and see what could be done. He also wanted to at least look at the idea of putting a sports complex across Trout Creek from the existing building, which would free up that space to meet other needs. As to the kitchen, the cooks told him they only need a little more room there. He agreed that students do need more space to eat.
Sachs said right now classes in the eating area are scheduled right up to meal time, so some students are eating on the floor.
Coble repeated that problem could be easily solved if they took the athletic area, including the weight room, out of the existing building.
"This is just their first proposal," Malke offered. He said they should wait for the survey before going farther.
Kleikamp said she is on the survey committee, and feels the questions planned now are too limited. She agreed they should add Coble's proposal for an athletic complex as a third option. That would also solve the parking issues.
As to a separate middle school, "We already know a third school is a bad idea."
She said if students need to go from one building to another for classes they would need five minutes between classes rather than three, which adds to the length of the school day.
Coble suggested they might put music facilities in the separate building.
DeMarce said she went to Coleman when they had separated buildings, "it was really bad...kids were even beating each other up on the walk between the buildings."
There was talk of vacating Green Street to add parking spaces. Kleikamp said crossing in traffic is "freaking people out."
Coble said people already rejected a $34 million referendum, "and if we go right back with a proposal for $35 million we're going down to defeat."
Malke urged Coble to stay calm, "let's not come in with guns blazing."
Schroeder felt there were too many discrepancies in the proposals. He said the Hoffman plan was $34 million with the auditorium, and this plan is $34 million without it. "People are going to ask why... We have to answer their questions."
Beaver suggested they need to get response from the community as to how much they are willing to spend. "I think you can give them too many options."
Malke commented 1,800 people voted on the last referendum, and eight have shown up at the committee meetings since January.
That is why one of the reasons for the survey is to educate, Kleikamp replied.
She said the voters should be asked what their priorities are, for example added security, gym space, commons area, infrastructure. As to infrastructure, she said that needs to be updated, adding that the buildings have been maintained, but lighting, heating, cooling and plumbing systems cannot be upgraded with regular maintenance budgets. "It's to the point where we need a referendum to do the updates."
Sachs said the board's fear is that this has to be a 40-year solution, "and a $10 million infrastructure upgrade is not a 40-year solution."
Coble countered that there is no such thing as a 40-year solution. New heating systems, for example, are only guaranteed for perhaps 25 years.
Coble also was concerned that Hoffman had said the wetlands on the proposed new school site would not be a problem, but Miron people said it would be.
Sachs replied that wetland restrictions are not being eased, "Can we take a chance?"
"I don't understand how one reputable firm says we can build a parking lot on a wetland and another says we can't," Coble replied.
DeMarce, looking at figures in the report, said if they built the proposed athletic complex across the river they could re-do the existing building for about $23,485, including the infrastructure and window replacements, and add another $3.6 million to expand the tech ed department right where it is. She too felt they should have a third option to add the third building, with renovation projections for the existing building with those athletic spaces freed up. She also felt they would need to look at the cost of staffing and maintaining a third building.
The report referred to small, irregularly shaped classrooms, but several committee members noted those are the rooms converted from former storage areas that could go back to their original uses once the new spaces are freed up, or better still, they could be used by staff for class preparation work. She said many people suggested to her that there should be an option for a third building. She added that Miron and Sommerville have only been on board for a month and a half, and felt given more time they could offer more options.
"We should have started talking about a third building right at the start," Malke declared.
"Go to the October school board meeting and tell them we've destroyed our chances for an April election," Coble suggested.
Malke said he had been happy with the two options the previous week, "but if we want three options, I'm fine with that." However, he questioned the cost of getting the third option done.
Coble felt the whole 1939 building should be torn down and rebuilt, but newer parts could be retained. Kleikamp said that would create more disruption for classes, but it could be done, perhaps over a two-year period. "We work really, really hard in the summers," he said.
There was concern that the plan for remodeling still does not meet the needs for special ed rooms. Sachs explained Sommerville told them with so many interior bearing walls it is hard to tear out walls to make larger rooms, "and that makes remodeling very, very difficult." He added that tearing down the 1939 building and reconstructing it would add a lot of unneeded expense.
Coble said the band teacher and choir director did not feel taking their programs to a building across the creek would be a very big deal, but they did not want access coming out on County D.
DeMarce felt they could built the sports/auditorium building for about $15 million, and then spend $10 million to remodel the existing building.
After more discussion, Sachs advised getting the survey done sooner rather than later.
Kleikamp summarized that the third building for sports and music is a viable option for a 40-year plan, and needs to be e there as an option. A middle school is not viable.
Hartwig felt having a 40-year plan didn't necessarily mean things would last for 40 years, but that you would know in advance when you would have to replace them.
DeMarce disagreed. "To me, a 40 year solution means no one comes knocking and asking for more money for 40 years."
As to numbers and sizes of classrooms, committee members agreed that student count has been pretty stable, and that probably will continue. That led to a brief discussion on Open Enrollment, which everyone agreed is very good for the district. It is used to keep class sizes and numbers of classes stable, and brings a needed million dollars of income into the district each year. Last year there were 22 students open enrolled out and 189 open enrolled in.
Summarizing, committee members agreed they need to get verification of wetland restrictions, cost implications of a free standing building for gym and possibly the auditorium as a future project, space for tech ed, and firm answers as to how long the major work will last.
DeMarce commented when the committee started in February they agreed as committee members, "we need to keep an open mind and not make a decision until we have all the information." She said she is finding it harder and harder to do that.
Coble said the committee members should again take the information home, get a good night's sleep, "and in the morning get out our mission statement and make sure we're still on course."
"I hope whatever recommendation we come up with, we're united," he added. However, he said they started with 11 members in case they were split and needed an odd number of members to allow a decision.
Agreement was to recommend going ahead as quickly as possible with the survey, and tentatively meet again on Monday, Oct. 16 to continue their discussions. Nothing was formally decided, but a referendum vote in April seems highly unlikely.
The report presented at the Sept. 25 meeting lists the Peshtigo Pride Citizen Committee's vision as:
1. Develop a long term facilities plan that is fiscally responsible to the district and community,
2. Facilities plan needs to incorporate multi-purpose/community focused spaces,
3. Integrate improved learning environments, attentive to student achievement,
4. Embrace and expand Tech Ed and Agricultural programs local to the area,
5. Create a safe and secure learning environment - internal and external.
Identified as key elements are a 40-year solution, sensitive to energy consumption, adaptable and flexible for future uses, maintain an historical connection, auditorium, community rooms, commons area/cafeteria, efficient and safe traffic flow, community/school wellness center, adequate gymnasium size, 21st century learning, integration of technology, incorporation of natural light, collaborative spaces, faculty and staff engaged in learning, overall flexibility, align with local business, adequate parking for events.
The facility study for the existing middle school/high school building shows there are lacks in gymnasium space, commons or dedicated cafeteria space, temperature control (infrastructure replacement), natural day lighting, and lack of size in classrooms, corridors, stairwells and Tech Ed space.
Total project cost estimates presented to the committee include design and construction fees, contingency fund, site development, storm water management, technology (such as smartboards, projectors, etc.), furnishings, fixtures, equipment, walking bridge (over Trout Creek) and inflation.
The report included tentative floor plans for the remodeling option with additions and renovation, with price breakouts for the possible construction stages.
Listed as disadvantages for remodeling are: still an older building with aging building envelope, several load bearing walls limit ability to create modern collaboration spaces, creates a large building footprint on a limited site, additions will eliminate onsite parking, limited multi-purpose/community focused space, classrooms will remain small and irregularly spaced, hallways will remain narrow due to existing load bearing walls, limited to a 3-station gym, no space to build an auditorium, more difficult to phase construction and disruptive to school operations during construction, higher utility cost than new construction due to the energy efficiency of the existing building envelope.
Remodeling would leave the school in a community friendly location, increase the Tech Ed space to focus on career ready skills, provide a new secure entrance, create a commons/cafeteria and a larger more efficient kitchen, put music department space to better use, provide additional gym space, replace all mechanical systems, add windows on the north side to draw in more natural light, and would have the lowest tax impact of the two options.
Listed as disadvantages of building an entirely new school (in addition to cost) were several wetland areas that inhibit where the building and parking can be located, it is further removed from the heart of Peshtigo, and access would be onto West Park Drive.
Advantages listed were secure entrance, more design flexibility to include modern learning spaces, ability to maximize natural light, more efficient site and building layout, better site and traffic flow, ability to incorporate a large gym and possible auditorium, ample parking, ability to create multipurpose/community focused space, less disruptive to the school operations, and ability for future growth and expansion.
The $34,100,000 price projection for the new construction option says a possible 500-seat auditorium fully rigged and provided with sound equipment could be added sometime in the future for an added cost of $5,300,000.
Price estimate breakdowns are$14,135,000 for the academics area with 18 classrooms, 5 science classrooms, 4 special ed classrooms, a sensory room, choir, art, band and tech ed space. Shared spaces, at a cost of $14,270,000 would include a 4-station gym, fitness area, wrestling room, kitchen, commons, LMC, business slab and restrooms. (Later there were suggestions to go with the 3-station gym and add money for demolishing the existing building.) Supporting spaces, office, work room, conference room and mechanical and data rooms have a projected cost of $1,604,488. Site preparation including utilities, parking lots, fire lane, etc. would cost $2,620,000 and an additional $1,500,000 was included in the price projections to cover fixtures and furnishings, technology equipment, signage and commissioning.
Projected remodeling costs include $1,275,000 for relocating the office and front entrance and remodeling the existing office into general classrooms in order to provide a secure entrance to the building; infrastructure, including replacing all windows, adding windows on exterior walls for natural lighting, replacing all mechanical systems, renovating stairwells, adding an elevator, addressing ADA compliance and asbestos removal, is projected to cost $10,485,000.
Renovating the learning center by adding breakout, collaboration spaces and modern furniture is budgeted at $615,000. Adding 12,000 square feet to the Tech Ed Department and renovating existing space for career ready skills is estimated to cost $3,600,000. Renovating the entire interior including carpet, floor, paint and ceilings throughout the existing buildings, new classroom casework and furniture, fixtures and equipment is estimated at $5,700,000.
Adding a 3-station gym, wrestling room, fitness center and multi purpose space, plus renovation of locker rooms is estimated to cost $5,290,000.
Renovating the existing gym into an expanded kitchen and commons, with space designed to also act as a cafetorium will cost an estimated $1,900,000.
Cost of site work is projected at $1,970,000. This includes replacement of parking due to the gym/wellness center addition. The report states currently the most viable option is building a parking lot on land the district owns behind the elementary school and constructing a walking path bridge over Trout Creek to get there. The price estimate includes the cost of building the bridge and parking lots.
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