Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 30, 2014

Van Buren considers moving grades to Douds

By RUSTY EBERT | Sep 03, 2014

DOUDS – The Van Buren Community School Board approved moving forward on a building project that entails moving the fifth and sixth grades from Douds elementary to Keosauqua.

The board held a special meeting Aug. 27 to meet with the school’s architect, BLDD, to approve a final program for facilities improvements, concerning the committee work that has been done over the summer.

The vote was 4-2 with board members Bob Steingreaber, Kara McEntee, Cindy Lowe and Sheila Parsons voting for, and members Andrew Lydolph and Rick Plowman voting against.

Over the next few months, the district will try to nail down the details on exactly what the remodeling and new building will look like.

School board members have spent over two years on facility improvements.

“It’s very exciting to move forward,” said McEntee. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but getting the concepts is very positive for the district.”

“There’s no final design on what it looks like, but that will come over the next few months,” said superintendent Ewell.

It appears from possible options that BLDD presented to the board that there would be extensive remodeling to the existing Keosauqua buildings.

Ewell said the focus will bring the district’s buildings up to “21st Century learning.”

BLDD has done “heat maps” that showed the school board which spaces are over utilized and which ones are under utilized.

The idea, Ewell said, would be to readjust room sizes and purposes and then move teachers to the space that bests fits a particular class.

“What we want is a plan that gives us the most flexibility in classroom space,” Ewell said.

One organizational concept has the fifth through eighth grade in one section of the Keosauqua complex, perhaps on the south side. The existing second and third floors of the existing building would be remodeled for high school. There would be an addition for PE, commons, band, kitchen and an event entry. Whatever concepts are approved would have to be decided over the next few months, Ewell said.

The school board will be touring the Great Prairie Area Education Agency building. Ewell said they have some 21st Century learning rooms that can be a template for what Van Buren might do.

The motion, which was made by McEntee, would also make Douds a prekindergarten through fourth grade. It would entail moving students out of the old building into spaces of the newer center.

“We will have to investigate how to utilize the new building to make room or maybe we might have to put an addition,” McEntee said. “There’s a lot of people uncertain of it, but what I’ve heard is that it’s inevitable [moving out of the old Douds building]. People tell me, ‘Why put more money into it.’”

McEntee said if the district kept the K-6 at Douds, it would have to do more additions than they would at Keosauqua. She said that the older building was “not suitable” for pre-K.

Part of the motion stated that the board would consider what to do with or how to use the old building, going forward. There was no decision on the building’s future.

The vote wasn’t unanimous.

Plowman said his objection was financial in nature.

“We all want to do right by the kids, but right now we don’t know how much it will cost and whether we will have the funds,” Plowman said.

According to Ewell, the board is considering spending $3.5 million to $4 million for the project. The district is looking at three sources for the funds, the voted property tax PPEL, the money the school generates from the state sales tax for infrastructure and/or borrowing ahead selling bonds based on the future projected sales tax revenues.

“We don’t know what it would cost to tear down the Douds school and we know that water, electrical and heating to the new building comes through the old building. We don’t know those costs.” Plowman said.

There was discussion on acquiring Iowa Department of Natural Resources grants to assist the district in the cost of tearing it down.

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Plowman said. “The board members say they have had two or three years of studying, but the last school board election, two of the three board members who supported it are no longer here.”

Lydolph said he had talked with local contractors about the cost of a new HVAC in the old part who told him it was “way less than we’re seeing here.” He said it would be less than the threshold required to hire an architect.

Ewell asked, “is that all it needs, HVAC?”

For those on the committee, including parents and teachers and board members who have spent the last few years considering the district’s facility needs, it was time for the district to move forward and that there would be funds for the project, according to McEntee.

She said it didn’t serve the district to “wait any longer.”

“If you build it, we will come,” said John Simmons, secondary instructor.

Others said it was not financially prudent to continue putting district money into an old building at Douds.

Ewell said besides coming up with specific designs of the remodeling and building project, the administration would also hold community meetings to discuss the district’s plans. The staff will hold weekly meetings on Tuesday after school to discuss the facilities improvement plan, she said.

 

In other action:

The board approved sharing a human resources position with Davis County and Cardinal School Districts. According to Ewell, the district will use funds that give districts incentives to share and would be “budget neutral.” Van Buren would hold the contract. The district has been discussing the idea with Davis County and Cardinal, which have expressed an interest. The school boards of those two districts have yet to approve an agreement.

“With the new health care law and other things coming down, this will be a pretty important thing,” Ewell said.

Board member Stan Whitten announced he would be stepping down as board president, due to the increased duties he has as new manager of the Keosauqua Light Plant. He will stay on as board member, but the school board will need to choose a new president.

PROPOSED SCHEDULE

September 2014: Schematic Design

October 2014: Design development

November-December 2014-early January 2015: Construction Documents

January-February 2015: Bidding

March 2015-January 2016: Building Construction

May 29, 2015- August 17, 2015: Building Renovation

August 17, 2015-October 2015: Site Construction

 

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