NEW ULM - A community task force in the process examining strategic facility needs in District 88 on Tuesday appeared to lean toward supporting a plan that would consolidate grades 4-12 on the current Jefferson Elementary/High School (main) campus and move grades pre-K-3 to Washington School.
The plan carries a projected approximate price tag of $29 million.
The option - just one of nine scenarios presented by consultants SGN Wendell and Kraus-Anderson Construction - calls for the construction of a new auditorium, gymnasium, dining room/kitchen and offices on the main campus, which is located on South Payne Street. Designed as a multi-purpose space, the addition would be geared toward serving general public, as well as school-specific, needs.
The scenario in question also involves remodeling and expanding Washington School, with lower-level classrooms for grades pre-K-K, upper-level classrooms for grades 1-3, and some new multi-purpose, dining, and gym space.
The rest of the options - discussed in detail as the task force broke into eight small groups - ranged from doing nothing to building a new, single-campus, complex at an unspecified site. Projected price tags ranged from $0 to $110 million, not including approximately $3-4 million for previously-discussed high-school athletic-field upgrades.
The options, as numbered by the consultants, are briefly outlined below:
Option 1: build a new, 400,000- to 450,000-square-foot, school complex for grades preK-12, on a new 60-80 acre site; price $100 million.
Option 2: build a new preK-5 building and a new middle/high school building; 450,000-500,000 square foot; 60-80 acre site; $110 million.
Option 3: build a new 125,000-square-foot preK-4 building, on new site (20-30 acres); additions and remodeling at High School/Jefferson for grades 512; $55 million.
Option 4: a new,160,000- square foot, 9-12 high school on a new site (4560 acres); additions and remodeling at High School/Jefferson for grades preK-8 (that is, creating an elementary/middle school campus); $48 million.
Option 5: (favored, described above)
Option 6: same as Option 5, except for what happens at Washington School (Washington would be remodeled for grades 1-3 but not expanded, grades pre-K-K would be placed in a separate, unidentified facility); $24 million.
Option 7: similar to Options 5 and 6, but would NOT involve a grade switch between Jefferson and Washington; grades 8-12 (or else 7-12) would remain at the High School, with grades pre-K-2 at Jefferson, and grades 3-7 (or else 3-6) at Washington; $28 million.
Option 8: additions and remodeling at the High School/Jefferson site, to make a campus for grades 4-12; trade Washington School for St. Paul's Lutheran School (nearly adjacent to the main public-school campus); additions and remodeling at St. Paul's to turn it into a preK3 building; no price tag was quoted, as this option was seen as less viable.
Option 9: do nothing.
When reporting the recommendations that evolved during the small-group discussions, task force members expressed a variety of concerns. Some speakers noted that the district should strongly consider community input and impacts if it asks the public to fund any one of the plans, or a variation there of, in a referendum. Some noted that no "Cadillac plan" is likely to gain public support; while others wondered if it is not wiser to build anew, rather than resuscitate buildings that are now 50 years old, and would be even older by the time a potential 20-year bond is paid off.
Once options are narrowed down and further refined, the district will examine financial possibilities and tax impacts, said officials. This and other information will be presented at the panel's next meeting on Feb. 11. The task force will end its deliberations in March, with a report about a recommended course of action for School Board consideration. A public input gathering stage will follow, and the School Board will decide on whether to call a referendum next fall, to fund any agreed-upon upgrades.
Besides Jefferson, Washington and the High School, the district currently partially operates the former middle school on State Street. The building, deemed too costly to remodel for classes, houses offices and the only performing arts space in the district. The district is in the process of negotiating its sale to a private party.