Source of funding for new gym to be told soon

An announcement will be made in the next two to three weeks of the source of private funding for a new gymnasium as part of the proposed Greene County High School and regional academy.

At a meeting held Wednesday in Grand Junction to gather community input on the proposal, school board member Dr Steve Karber, who has spent considerable time sharing information about the proposal, first said taxpayers should “have faith” that private funds would be available, but then said the source will be known in the next two to three weeks.

The meeting was one of four meetings with Vicki Hyland and Carly Weber, both of OPN Architects, the company selected by the Greene County school board to assist in preliminary planning and design for the project.

About 20 persons attended the meeting in Grand Junction and another 12 persons attended a meeting later Wednesday in Jefferson. Meetings planned for Rippey and Scranton Thursday morning were postponed due to the weather.

The meeting provided more information to attendees than input for OPN.

Karber’s comment was in answer to questions about how the ballot language would be written if it were still unknown how the gym would be funded.
Two previous bond referendums failed due, in part, to taxpayers’ reluctance to pay for a new competition gym. This proposal calls for a bond issue for about the same amount, but with private funding for the gym and that amount, about $4 million, being used instead to build a career academy.

School superintendent Tim Christensen also attended the meeting and said that the “unknowns” would be known in time to meet deadlines for an April 3 special election.
OPN’s Hyland shared that part of the company’s work is an assessment of all the district’s buildings to provide a cost estimate to bring all buildings into compliance with current codes. The assessment will be finished by Jan. 29, she said.

The two were asked how plans will account for future enrollments. Weber answered that a building would be designed “for growth and flexibility… To design for the finite number you have now would not be a good plan for the future.”

The state has projected Greene County enrollment to remain fairly stable with flat growth. “We know, just based on what we know about your community, that you have a lot of potential for district growth. Even though now they’re saying you’re going to be flat, five years from now or three years from now, that might change drastically. We need to allow for expandability,” Hyland said.

To a follow-up question about declining enrollment, Weber said a flexible design would make it easier if a school building eventually needed to be closed.

School board member Steve Fisher was also at the meeting. He asked the pair to talk about how school space is used today compared to 50 years ago. According to Hyland, the biggest differences are handicap accessibility, the infrastructure needed for technology, and spaces large enough for student collaboration.

Denny Lautner of Jefferson suggested the campus be located on 25 acres the school already owns east of the current high school. He said moving practice fields close to the school to land east of the baseball field would free up space for a career academy adjacent to the school. He also said the proposed site west of AAI/Spalding on Highway 30 is “the coldest *** ****** part of town.”

Hyland and Weber met earlier in the day with Greene County teachers to get their input on a new building. According to Hyland, safety and security are important to teachers, along with compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Some of them asked for very ordinary things. They want windows. They want faculty restrooms so they don’t have to use the same bathroom as students. They want storage in their classrooms,” Hyland said.

A question was asked about how bonded debt would be handled should Paton-Churdan eventually reorganize with Greene County. Karber answered that part of the reorganization would include P-C taxpayers assuming a pro-rated portion of the bonded debt.

One person at the meeting mentioned recent building projects at Webster City and Humboldt. In Humboldt a new middle school was built attached to a 1960s high school. “They didn’t buy new dirt and start over from scratch,” he said.

Christensen answered a question about enrollment at the career academy. He said the academy will have four strands of training with a maximum enrollment of 15 high school students per strand. Seven other districts have indicated interest in sending students to the academy, but that’s dependent on what strands are offered.

Greene County Schools will own the building. The current discussion with Iowa Central Community College is for a 10-year lease at an amount that would cover operation and maintenance, not the cost of construction.

According to OPN’s Weber, there are only three other regional academies in Iowa – the first one developed by Kirkwood Community College, an Iowa Central academy in Eagle Grove, and the Des Moines Area Community College academy in Pella. Chris Deal’s visit to the Pella facility was the impetus for the Greene County proposal.

 

“You really are setting a trend not only in that regard, but in that your community sought out Iowa Central as a partner. That’s unprecedented and it’s gaining attention statewide. To be able to tout Greene County as setting the bar, looking to the future, looking to the future and identifying what your industry needs, that’s a really good story to tell. I think you’re going to get some attention statewide,” Weber said.

All decisions regarding the proposal and needed bond must be made by Feb. 14, Weber said.

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