Board discusses elementary addition

Cars line both sides of the street outside of the school, as well as fill the parking lot. The school is looking to build an addition in the parking lot and hopes to change the parking on the streets too. photo/Sarah Ebeling

Dawn Rye | Writer

During last week’s Parker School Board meeting, a motion was made to move forward on Phase I of the elementary addition and a motion was made for a resolution to pay for the project out of capital outlay funds. 

Superintendent Donavan DeBoer said several discussions were held with the building committee and Koch Hazard architect Keith Thompson. He noted he challenged some individuals on their thoughts on an elementary school vs. high school plans and the best place to put it. DeBoer discussed getting “the best bang for your dollar” type of options. He explained one idea was to move the addition to the playground to avoid some issues and save the school money allowing the school flexibility on its property. DeBoer said the biggest concern is losing parking space and a possibility to get with the city to come up with diagonal parking vs. straight line parking. He explained for the various reasons, they believe the elementary concept is the best way to fit the budget of the capital outlay certificates. Second, it keeps the elementary school in the center of town for kids and third, it doesn’t cuff future board members if they wanted a bond to create a seven – 12th-grade school out towards the complex. 

DeBoer said bidding would occur during the summer with hopes to start breaking ground on the current building in the early fall of 2021. He noted that if the process goes smoothly, elementary students will move into their new building in 2022. DeBoer explained they would renovate the current elementary to be suited for the high school students and should be accomplished by Christmas 2022. He said after high school students move into the renovated building, the 1912 building would be demolished in early 2023. DeBoer explained they would break ground for the second phase in spring 2023, the gym area, CTE classroom and garage and should be completed by August 2024. 

Business manager Jim Vogel explained the cost of $5.85 million is to accomplish phase one, including parking, electrical upgrades and construction reserves. Vogel noted before the 1912 building can be knocked down, they need to get the 1956 and 1962 buildings ready for the high school students. He explained the high school renovation is estimated at $1.1 million.

DeBoer said that it would place the building’s newest pieces on the south side if they go with a kindergarten- sixth-grade elementary building. DeBoer explained that if future board members wanted to build a seventh – 12th-grade addition, they would have the opportunity to take down the 1956 and 1938 buildings and do a bond in 10 years. He noted if the board ties their dollars into a seventh — 12th-grade building now, this is where the school will always be. 

Board member Ransom Jones said there are advantages of moving the building to the south end of the playground and at first, it seemed to be the wrong direction, but quickly became a terrific idea. He explained that the newest structure aligns with the current building even though the structures would stand independently. Jones discussed the immediate dollars saved with pouring new asphalt for playground space and pursuing other properties. He said the project’s budget would run incredibly tight to ensure the school does it right the first time. 

DeBoer noted the board is working on the early stages of the process and there will be changes. He noted the building committee kicked around multiple ideas on how to solve the parking lot situation. He said they are looking at purchasing new playground equipment and moving it toward the south of the playground and utilizing that space for parking during games. DeBoer explained the other alternatives are not positive when it comes to purchasing property to fix the parking lot issue.

Thompson said the renovation would address the ADA issues, elementary restrooms and the gym receiving mechanical upgrades. 

DeBoer noted while the board is talking about the additions, they will help alleviate some issues and it’s not just about a new elementary building. It’s also about lunchroom space that’s built into the plan. 

He said obviously, the heating and cooling systems need to be done correctly and roof issues will still come up. DeBoer also discussed possibly looking at the small gym and making it user friendly for the fine arts department. 

Chairman Jason Chester noted there would probably be more questions regarding phase two and more changes. He said phase one is straight forward when the board gets past the placement of the structure. Chester commented that the parking lot would be the place to put it because it could be purchasing half a block for parking elsewhere. He noted this would be a low impact for a construction project, not displacing anyone for phase one.

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