Facilities plan study moving forward in Royalton

The Royalton Elementary School is short on space, with a 19,000 square foot deficit for the number of students.
The Royalton Elementary School is short on space, with a 19,000 square foot deficit for the number of students.

Board, staff, community giving input on school district needs

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer

Two of the biggest needs facing the Royalton School District are the deficit of 19,000 square feet of space at the elementary school (as compared to a current standard school building) and deferred maintenance at both buildings that adds up to $16.9 million.

That’s the news the Royalton School Board heard Monday when an update was presented regarding a facilities plan study currently being done jointly by Springsted Inc. of St. Paul, Kraus-Anderson of Minneapolis and Worner and Associates of St. Cloud.

The facilities study was approved at the August board meeting. The cost of the current Phase I is $23,995.

“This amount will be reduced by $8,970 if the district later contracts with Kraus-Anderson to be the construction manager of a future building project, bringing the cost down to $15,025,” said District Business Manager Mary Plante.

“The bulk of the deferred maintenance is mechanical and electrical items,” Benson said.

“There is no room to breathe at the elementary,” said Roger Worner, whose company is assessing the educational needs of the facilities. “What ends up happening is that the more tightly a program is shoehorned into a building, the more conventional a program becomes. This limits collaborative work and use of resources.”

Three possible site configurations were presented to meet the future needs of the district.

“Each one helps address similar needs of space (e.g., classroom, specialized services, cafeterias, gyms, etc.), deferred maintenance (e.g., 48-year-old elementary classroom univents that should have been replaced after 20 years, etc.) and continuing to move academic programs ahead to meet optimistic and challenging goals for our students,” said Supt. Jon Ellerbusch.

The program goals include Project Lead The Way courses in engineering and biomedicine, a strong agriculture program, a K-8 gifted, talented and enrichment coach and a foreign language in the elementary school.

“Anything less than $20 million doesn’t address all three needs of space, deferred maintenance and continuing to move all E-12 academic programs ahead,” Ellerbusch said. “We are planning on four sections for each grade.”

The Board asked Springsted, the district’s financial adviser, to come back in January with calculations of $20, $25 and $30 million over 20 and 30 years of repayment. These figures will be available to the Board and the public during a special board meeting on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The meeting will also provide information regarding tax impact. “The Board received good news from Springsted that our school district is eligible for state equalization aid,” Ellerbusch said. “The amount available depends on the cost of the project. For a $20 million project, the state will provide Royalton Schools with $8 million. On a $25 million project, the state will provide $12.2 million.”

The percentage of state support increases as the project cost increases. That means the amount of local dollars needed decreases. It is currently projected that for a $30 million project the state aid will equal about 50 percent of the cost or $15 million.

Three different options for the district’s schools, which combined deferred maintenance/renovation and/or new construction, were presented in no particular order. The first option involves building an early childhood and kindergarten center at the middle school/high school (MS/HS) site; adding on classroom space and completing deferred maintenance needs at the MS/HS, remodeling the elementary for a grades 1-5 facility and completing several deferred maintenance needs at the elementary.

The second option is to build a new early childhood through grade 5 elementary at the MS/HS site and add on classroom space and complete deferred maintenance needs at the MS/HS.

The third option is to purchase land around the current elementary site to add classroom, food service, and gym space and complete several deferred maintenance needs. At the MS/HS necessary classroom space would be added along with deferred maintenance needs completed.

“The Facilities Planning Committee and the Board haven’t set any of the above ideas or recommendations in stone,” Ellerbusch said. “Their intent is to provide a foundation for discussion and idea-sharing. Our families and community members will add to, change and ultimately make the final decision on an acceptable and sound facilities plan.”

A number of opportunities for community engagement and recommendation sharing will take place in January, February and March.

Ellerbusch invites the public to call or email with thoughts and questions. He can be reached at (320) 360-9192 and [email protected].