School building plans, consolidation discussed
Plans for remodeling and additions in the high school building and consolidation were discussed by members of the Barnum School Board at a working meeting on Tuesday, February 11.
As architect Kevin Holm of LHB meets with school staff, the plans are changing to suit the needs of the various departments. The board was presented with two sets of plans, and chose Plan A to best meet the needs.
With Plan A, classrooms would be added to the south end of the school, an addition for the music department added to the west side of the school, and a new gym, locker rooms and space for a new fitness center, health room and storage added to the north end of the school. The new additions would total 39,168 square feet.
The science and computer classroom would be remodeled, and the auditorium would be enlarged to nearly double the seating, from 266 to 421. The existing auditorium would remain, with the new seating extending to the front on a lower level, dug into the ground.
Heavy remodeling would take place in 13,640 square feet.
The kitchen would also be remodeled.
Light remodeling would take place in the remainder of the school, on 44,692 square feet.
Superintendent Dave Bottem explained that there will be a hallway between the old and the new gyms to cut down on the sound transferring from one gym to the other.
More storage room and office space was added to the music section.
A check-in area will be placed in the center of the media center. An office was added, along with rooms for groups to work.
The number of lockers has increased in the new plan from 400 to 500.
The community education space has been moved from the back to the front of the building, with a window and air conditioning, being that the program is operated year around.
Bottem said they are trying to keep the estimated cost of the remodeling and expansion project at $15 million.
The school district residents will have to approve the project by a referendum vote, scheduled in the fall. The board will make the final commitment to go forward with the referendum in May.
The board discussed methods of publicizing the plans for the project and providing information to the school district residents.
“We are hearing from people that don’t know anything about it,” said board Chair Patrick Poirier. “Thirty percent of the people have a vested interest in the school. I don’t think that we are reaching 70 percent of the people.”
Times were set at 9 to 10:15 in the mornings during certain school days, where residents can stop in and see the crowded classrooms and other space issues. Residents can also meet with the board members from 5 to 6:15 p.m. before the board meetings. Watch the school’s website and the Public Reporter for more information.
Members of the board and the superintendent will also be visiting the local governmental meetings, the PTO and the senior center to bring information about the project and answer questions.
The board also discussed consolidation with the Moose Lake School District.
Poirier said he had met with Moose Lake School Board Chair Kris Lyons to discuss the various aspects of possible consolidation between the two school districts. He said the Willow River School Board is not interested in discussing consolidation.
Poirier said that, with consolidation, Moose Lake would keep the elementary grades at the school, and Barnum would keep the elementary and junior high grades at the existing school. A new school would be built between the two towns for the senior high school. The high school portion of the Moose Lake school would be demolished.
Poirier expressed his concern about a bigger school and larger class sizes.
The estimated cost for a school that would house three grades, either grades 7, 8 and 9, or grades 10, 11 and 12, was $26 million, said Bottem.
The Moose Lake School District has no debt. The Barnum School District has $277,000 in debt.
Bottem said that he had contacted Ehlers, the financial consultants, about the tax impact for the residents in both districts if the two districts consolidated and the new school was built.
The taxes for a $150,000 property would increase $266 for 2015, go down to $240 for 2018 for the Barnum School District, and be $266 in 2015 for Moose Lake School District residents and go up to $350 in 2018 for Moose Lake School District residents.
The election would be held this fall on a 20-year bond for the new school.
“We would pay a smaller amount on the new debt,” said Bottem. “In four years, it’s gone. The principal and interest will go up for one school district. In 2018, our debt will be gone, and then we would both pay the same amount.”
The board is continuing the discussion at the regular meeting of the board on Tuesday, February 18.