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Committee backs $41.24 million school vote PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Ostermann   
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 19:22

Facilities group recommends upgrade plan for spring referendum that will now be fine-tuned by School Board 

Reaffirming its focus on major renovation plans for a spring referendum, a Grafton School District committee has recommended a $41.24 million project to upgrade district facilities.

The 31-member Facilities Advisory Committee forwarded its unanimous recommendation to the School Board on Monday, paving the way for fine-tuning of the proposal for a question on the April 2017 ballot.

The plan, which calls for a three-campus arrangement, includes razing Grafton Elementary School, renovating and expanding Kennedy and Woodview elementary schools and upgrading John Long Middle School.

“It was a very deliberating process,” Paul Lorge, committee chairman, said of the group’s work, which has included eight meetings and two community listening sessions.

“We took time to address questions and concerns as they came up.”

The committee, which was formed after voters rejected two borrowing proposals in an April 2016 referendum, finalized a recommendation at its Dec. 7 meeting.

The three-campus plan was selected over a two-campus option after the committee narrowed a list of nine upgrade proposals presented this fall by Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction.

The two-campus option called for Grafton Elementary School to be razed to allow construction of a middle school next to the high school.

Under the three-campus plan, Grafton Elementary School would be razed to allow expansion of the high school, renovation of the district office and the addition of event parking and a maintenance building on the west end of the property. Classes at Grafton Elementary School would be moved to the Kennedy and Woodview schools.

The three-campus plan was presented  with a $44.9 million price tag at November listening sessions, where the proposal received a mixed reaction from residents. Some praised the committee’s work, voicing support for much-needed upgrades, while others questioned the expansive scope of the plan and criticized the cost as excessive.

Last week, the committee pared the  estimated cost to $41,243,408, which includes:

n $17.7 million for high school upgrades to science, technology, engineering and math, fine arts, technical education and physical education departments;

n $9.4 million for expansion, renovation and maintenance work at Woodview School, including additional classrooms for 4K to fifth-grade students;

n $9.3 million for remodeling, additions and maintenance work at Kennedy School, including more classrooms for 4K to fifth-graders;

n $2.6 million for infrastructure upgrades and new roadways at John Long Middle School;

n $1.1 million to demolish Grafton Elementary School and restore the property for high school projects;

n $570,000 for a new district maintenance facility;

n $490,000 for infrastructure upgrades to the district office.

The committee also asked the board to consider funding options to provide $936,589 for upgrades to the high school softball, baseball and soccer fields. Included in that plan is moving the varsity softball and baseball diamonds to the high school campus.

The committee — which included a cross-section of residents, board members and district officials — presented a recommen-dation this month to give the School Board time to finalize the upgrade plan by January. Under state law, the board decision must be made at least 70 days before the election.

In reviewing referendum preparations, Supt. Jeff Nelson said the committee based its work on several premises, or “driver” points, including that Grafton Elementary School is in immediate need of replacement, that security upgrades should be included in maintenance work, and that upgrades are urgently needed to science and technology education departments at the high school.

“The committee has spent 25.5 hours, including tours, meetings and listening sessions,” Nelson said. “The next step will be to have a board workshop to answer how you get from $47 million to $41 million.

“The committee now recognizes that it’s up to the board to make a final decision.”

In thanking committee members for their work, Lorge said they deliberated carefully before making a recommendation.

“This recommendation truly does focus on needs while providing high-quality options for the community,” Lorge said. 

In an overview of the current upgrades plans, Hoffman representative Jody Andres said the most significant change made by the committee was “going from three elementary schools down to two.”

The result, Andres noted, is a plan to continue using John Long as a middle school in a campus setting with Woodview. The other two campuses would be Kennedy School and Grafton High School with the district office.

In April, voters rejected a $47.7 million upgrade plan for district buildings and a $1.8 million plan to upgrade outdoor physical education, athletic and recreation areas. Trimming those projected costs has been a priority for the committee since it began meeting this summer, Lorge said.

At Nelson’s suggestion, the board agreed to hold a workshop session at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19. Further deliberations by the board are expected next month, when it is scheduled to hold regular meetings Jan. 9 and 23.

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