Royalton Schools busy with facility plans

Superintendents-Corner-EllerbuschIt’s been a busy nine months in Royalton Public Schools as members of the Royalton School Board and Facilities Planning Committee continue to work with Springsted Inc., Kraus-Anderson, and Roger Worner Associates, Inc. on a facilities plan for our district’s elementary and MS/HS buildings.

As we assess the schools, three factors drive our efforts: overdue and increasing maintenance needs, a goal to provide all students with a high-quality education, and resident and open-enrollment growth.

Overdue and increasing maintenance needs: Kraus-Anderson conducted an in-depth study and identified deferred maintenance and repair needs at both building sites. Royalton Elementary School has $6 – $7 million in maintenance needs and Royalton Middle School/Royalton High School has $8-10 million. Much of the cost is tied to mechanical and electrical systems at both buildings that are well beyond their life expectancy.

With input from our community and families, the School Board and Facilities Planning Committee will collaborate on prioritizing Kraus-Anderson’s list of deferred maintenance and repair needs.

The goal to provide all students with a high-quality education: Roger Worner Associates, Inc. collected and analyzed data regarding the educational adequacy of our district’s schools. Worner toured and examined the schools’ floor plans and noted a number of inadequacies.

For example, Worner pointed out that Royalton Elementary School is situated on a limited site in a residential area with a main office that is distant from the main entry, an undersized cafeteria, an undersized gymnasium in need of major renovation and insufficient parent conferencing, staff planning and storage spaces. Examples at Royalton Middle School/High School include a main entry that does not provide adequate security, an undersized cafeteria and undersized and overcrowded science laboratories.

Paul Youngquist, an architect with Architects Rego and Youngquist Inc., came on board in January to help identify space needs. The anticipated cost for items such as additional classrooms and larger cafeterias will cost an additional $10-15 million, but we will have accurate numbers from Youngquist in April.

Enrollment-Growth-Impact-Flow-ChartResident and open-enrollment growth: During a meeting with members of the School Board and Facilities Planning Committee, Worner shared a flowchart illustrating the positive impact of student enrollment growth on any district (see Enrollment Growth Impact Flow Chart). In Royalton Public Schools, enrollment growth has led to program/service growth including: small class sizes; Spanish in grades K-2; AP and College in the Schools courses; Project Lead the Way as part of STEM initiative; one full-time social worker in each school building; and a gifted, talented and enrichment coach.

The plan for 2014-15 is to expand Spanish into grades K-5 and to hire a technology integrationist to work directly with teachers on curriculum development and instruction.

While our community members are aware that open enrollment from neighboring districts is a major contributing factor to our student enrollment growth, they may not realize the resident population is growing too. In fact, based upon demographic trends, the resident enrollment population that is 586 students is expected to be 656 students in three years and 706 students in five years.

As the facilities study continues into spring, I will share more information with everyone. I was hoping we would be ready by now to engage the community and families in the planning, but more data collection and analysis by the consultants on adequate space and programming needs must take place.

We invite all of our school district residents to attend any or all of the committee and board meetings we publicize in the Morrison County Record as this truly should and will be a community effort to ensure our schools are adequate for educating today’s students.

Dr. Jon Ellerbusch is the superintendent of Royalton Public Schools.