Building options for Royalton School continue to evolve

By Kerry Drager, Correspondent

The Royalton School Board continues to work with the community, staff members and architects in developing a suitable plan for a new addition to the high school. There were many options to choose from but the board had narrowed it down to one.

“Moving the preschool and kindergarten from the elementary over to the high school seems to be the option that is favored by everyone,” said Paul Youngquist from ARY Architects Rego & Youngquist.

Additions known as “houses” will be constructed on the south side of the building. New classrooms will provide space for additional early childhood and kindergarten students. A new office and entrance on the end of the building will provide for the needs of the younger students and will keep them separated from the high school.

“If you walk in the entrance to the east, you go into a separate school. The reason it’s laid out like this is if we continue to bring more grades over, especially if we start to grow, we are set up where there can be additional houses or neighborhoods built,” said Youngquist.

The Royalton School District predicts continued growth in enrollment by roughly ten students per year. The new additions will need to cater not only to the growing numbers, but also provide a learning environment that will suit the needs of those future students.

“The concept is that we will extend the building on the north end. This will provide a space for student-driven learning. These spaces are in response to the new way that kids are learning and how they will learn in the future.”

The remodeling and extensions to the north end of the high school will provide a unique opportunity to become a district centered around hybrid classrooms. These will allow students to engage in lectures and provide them with the space and resources needed for independent study. This will provide areas where students can sit in groups with their various electronic devices and work on group projects or individual stations where they may work independently.

A new kitchen will serve the early childhood and kindergarten students. In order to keep food and time costs manageable, Youngquist suggested a concept that other districts have been partaking. Instead of each kitchen working on the entire menu, both kitchens can work together in making meal options. For example, one of the kitchens can be responsible for making salad bar items while the other is preparing the main course. The food is then placed onto carts and is wheeled between the cafeterias. Providing an opportunity to diversify food options.

“We can have different roll-out food options. Different choice areas within the cafeteria. Not just one line in and out,” said Superintendent Dr. Jon Ellerbusch. “Our food budget keeps growing, and the federal government is making us raise the price of the meals. We need to start spending down our food budget surplus and we can do that by having fresher and better quality foods.”

The plans also contain a large cafetorium that can seat up to 500 people while also providing a space for events. There are several design options to choose from here. Due to the stage possibly being located here lighting options, light pollution from windows and visibility is something the board will have to keep in mind. The option for raised, auditorium-like seating is also a concern for safety of the younger students that will need to watch their step as they moved between levels with their lunch trays in hand.

The new entrance to the building will have a security feature that will help the school keep a closer eye on who enters and exits the building. There will be two sets of doors into the building with the entrance to the office between these two doors. The second set of doors is locked, forcing people to come into the office to check in before being allowed into the school.

This security feature also allows for a large fitness center that will be used by students and members of the community. The entrance to this fitness area will be across from the office so fitness center patrons will not have access to the rest of the building without first coming into the office. The School Board is contemplating whether a fee will be charged for the use of the center, but many feel that because the community is already paying for the upgrades to the building that they should be allowed to use the center free of charge.

An appealing new look for the school is also being discussed. Paint schemes, tile and drywall corridors and a canopy that looks out to the road are all things that will be planned throughout the building process. The board showed interest in making the school less like an institute and more attractive and engaging for young minds.

“The design continues to evolve and will keep evolving even after the referendum process,” said Youngquist. “There will be zones in the building where kids know that they are in an academic area but on the weekends and evening it can be used for the community.”

Some items that are needed and continue to be discussed are additional storage for physical education, gym space for after school events and activities, additional parking and where to put the locker bays. The district is interested in hearing all concerns and suggestions on design so that the students, staff and community will be pleased with the new additions.

To help further refine the plan, study company Springstead will be conducting a scientific survey. The survey will be sent to 200 community members that live within the school district. It will be a six to eight week process to complete. The community will then vote to pass the plan Jan. 6, 2015.

The next regularly scheduled Royalton School Board meeting will be Monday, May 12, at 6 p.m. at the high school.