Parker School board continues to discuss future growth options

Dawn Rye | Writer
During last week’s Parker School Board meeting, the board discussed future building expansion options.
Superintendent Donavan DeBoer said he had a conversation with board member Ransom Jones as well as the other board members.
Board member Greg Simmermon explained the best option, in his opinion, is expanding the seating in the cafeteria, move classrooms and move kitchen to shop space. He said the 1912 building is structurally sound, however, usable space is becoming an issue.
Board member Erin Anderson said one of the options discussed is ideally building a new school to make it work financially. In her opinion, she noted once the economic numbers are laid out, that is where the decision would be decided. Anderson commented approaching the taxpayers and asking for a specific dollar amount is not going to go well.
Jones said his opinion is building a new school would be the better option. He noted it’s the most favorable and it’s the most expensive. Jones explained it would fit the area the school already owns.
He commented the school can twist and mold their options to fit the space, however, they should explore some options with the city.
Jones said, according to Koch Hazard, they estimate the school to have over 600 students in 10 years. He noted another concern is the buildings older than 1962 have zero ventilation. Jones questioned what is it going to cost for upgrading the ventilation system? He said if the board adds another addition to the 1912 building, the school would have the same result.
“My fear is that we are going to spend a lot of money on a new addition and we are going to wish we would have built a new school,” commented Jones.
He continued, “I’m an advocate for building a new school.”
Board member Brett Olson said he disagrees with what Koch Hazard came up with during the June meeting. He noted he doesn’t want to see more renovation unless it’s feasible. Olson commented that he is also in favor of a new school offsite.
He explained he thought Koch Hazard would come in and gives the board good ideas on moving forward. Olson said it seems like the only thought was to add on to the existing school or remove old buildings.
“I’m with you if we can do the whole new school,” commented Simmermon.
He said the board needs to figure out what the community wants and knows some taxpayers won’t agree if their taxes go up.
Anderson noted to have the bond company layout the data and allow the data to speak for itself; it will make more sense to the taxpayers.
Olson said no matter which way the board decides, whether it is $13 million or $24 million, there will be a bond required.
President Jason Chester noted that even if they were down to $7 million, it would have to come to a vote. He said it would have to be at $5 million to get under the vote cap.
Business manager Jim Vogel said since the start of COVID, the school has recognized the limited space. Vogel explained the current plan causes an invasion on the playground, forcing the school to move it to the east and removing the 1912 building. He noted with additions, it would require new ventilation and modifications to the existing ventilation system.
DeBoer said his thoughts as the board moves forward, his number one goal is about the students. He commented there are 494 students currently and he believes the growth will continue.
“If you build it, they will come type of scenario,” noted DeBoer.
He said he could live with any decision the board decides, but he feels there needs to be a priority list and how much the board wants to spend.
Principal Janelle Johnson explained there has been families touring the school wanting to open enroll this fall. The school had to order more cafeteria tables to give students the cafeteria experience.
She said the school needs more space and coming from larger districts; a more significant building would benefit student growth.
Chester noted the board needs 70 percent of the people in the district to vote when it comes time. He said there is going to be a lot of residents that will support a new school.
Olson asked if the board decides to go with another option in 10 years, what happens when the students outgrow those options?
Chester said it is hard to know with open enrollment numbers.
The board will continue to discuss their options and what is best of the students and the community.

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