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Public has first look at USC plans

By Staff | Aug 14, 2011

About 200 United South Central School District residents learned more about plans to fix school buildings or build a new facility during a public meeting in the auditorium Thursday night in Wells.

“The meeting was very well attended. It had a positive tone. I think all the questions they had were answered,” says Kathy Krebsbach, school board chair.

USC officials gave everyone in the district a chance to hear a presentation given by Superintendent Jerry Jensen and SGN architects Gary Nyberg and Jim Wilson.

Four school buses transported residents from Bricelyn, Easton, Freeborn, Kiester and Walters.

“It was a pretty positive meeting, there weren’t any negative comments. We got a lot of good information,” says board member Steve Navara.

Jensen and the architects went over two options: remodeling the current high school for slightly more than $16 million or building a new one for $24.125 million.

The estimated costs does not include removal of hazardous material, furnishings or work on any other buildings.

Jensen gave a “virtual tour,” using a power-point presentation to show deteriorating conditions of the district’s four buildings.

“The average age of our buildings is 50.14 years. Out of 335 school districts we’re 330th. There are five districts that have older buildings,” he says, using data from the state education department.

The three-story high school was built in 1932. Twenty years later the two-story elementary school and gymnasium were added. In 1961 classrooms and an industrial technical shop area was constructed. The music addition was built in 1974.

“There are some issues, areas of the buildings that are of real concern to the board. And, I am sure to some of you here,” Jensen says.

Problems needed to be addressed include plumbing, heating, ventilation, leaking roofs, corroding door entrances and windows that are not energy efficient.

Renovating the current facilities would include a 40,000-square-foot addition for a gymnasium, kitchen area, dining commons and administration offices.

Additional remodeling would involve some 28,000 square feet.

“There would be a 25 percent increase in building area to around 200,000 square feet,” says Wilson.

The cost of building a new 151,000-square-foot school includes land acquisition of 47 acres and tearing down the current facility.

“The building would be pre-cast concrete and would be very, very nice looking,” says Nyberg, adding it would be similar to ones in Medford and Cottonwood.

No site has been selected for the one-story school that would be built for 650 students in grades K-12 and be expected to last 75 years.

At the end of the meeting, members of the audience were given a ballot to choose which option they preferred.

“The votes aren’t a hard-fast drive for the board. It’s just to give them some idea of what people are thinking,” says Jensen.

Krebsbach says the results will be discussed at the board’s meeting on Tuesday night.

“I’m anxious to get and read all the responses. To see what option and direction our community is stirring us in,” she says.

Jensen says if residents give the go-ahead to hold a referendum the board could decide on a ballot question at the meeting.

“We would like to put it to a vote in December. If we wait until January it would cost $600,000 to $900,000 more,” he says.