Kingsland's school board and Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald convened for a study session with TSP architect Troy Miller, Kingsland grounds and maintenance director Scott Stockdale and Kingsland business manager Todd Netzke last Wednesday evening to examine options for making the best use of the facilities it owns.

McDonald stressed that this is the first time the board has heard the information and that staff was informed of the possibilities the district is pursuing to make better use of its existing facilities, but that no decisions could be made during the workshop since it was not an official meeting of the school board.

The board looked at options for the ag shop, library, café, middle school and other areas that have the potential for changes, some of them created by the school district's commitment to integrate 21st century skills and the use of technology.

"By 2017, Kingsland Public Schools' vision is to have academic excellence, a safe and positive learning environment, innovations in technology, community partnerships, student and parent engagement and more," said McDonald. "We've since talked about facility efficiency and improvements and how they fit into our strategic plan. We now have the opportunity to examine that and see what changes could be made to improve our instruction."

Miller opened the conversation by pointing out the duplication of wood and ag shop space, as the district's woodworking shop was constructed in 2008, when woodworking and tech education required a separate shop from the ag department's functions. Since that time, the lines between most courses' curriculum have become less pronounced, offering the district an opportunity to combine the less-used woodworking shop with the ag shop into a "messy shop" and creating room for a "clean classroom" that would allow students to complete various projects, have differentiated learning spaces and still have a classroom in which to complete paper or tech device-based assignments.

The lines between the science and engineering curriculum have become blurred as well with the implementation of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), which includes classes such as human body systems, principles of biomedical sciences and civil engineering. PLTW, in combination with the implementation of iPads and netbooks, has changed how the classrooms designed for lab space and those designed for general instruction have been used in the past year or two - the traditional science lab does not get as much use as it once did, even though the original purpose was well-suited to the district's needs.

Miller explained, "As we look at the underutilized parts of the building and look at the curriculum of ag and biology, what happened when they started to meld? How many hours a day is the ag shop utilized? You start to see a domino effect when you make one little change...we're starting to look at space as presentation and collaboration space instead of single classrooms."

He noted that the new student union, where students who participate in the College in the Schools (CIS) program, has been well-used since its inception this past fall, and that "the fixtures in a room don't necessarily define that room's use...it's more the furniture that defines it today."

With that said, Miller showed the board options for using the existing high school library - where books now line the walls but are not checked out as often as they once were due to the advent of e-books - as a new student commons, and taking up classrooms on the other side of the hall for a new staff center, creating an independent or group study space that still has teacher supervision and assistance available when necessary.

Furthermore, the Kingsland Café, the cafeteria/multipurpose gymnasium added onto the high school gymnasium in 2008, has been constantly occupied due to the addition of school day breakfast, meaning that elementary students who were to have their meals and physical education classes in the café have been shortchanged time given that the space is occupied by food service from early morning to after 12:30 p.m.

Building a new gymnasium off the café and moving the locker rooms upstairs to accommodate handicapped accessibility, as well as expanding use of the basement, would fill the need for more gymnasium space.

Another option he presented was converting the existing gymnasium into an auditorium once a new gym has been built, but also considering constructing a large classroom off the southwest corner of the high school entry to serve as a meeting place for students who could likely remain there throughout an entire morning to complete their studies; essentially, teachers would travel from classroom to classroom and a teacher's center instead of students coming to teachers' assigned classrooms.

The architect and superintendent also shared that the cost of operating the middle school building in Wykoff has become more expensive each year, at approximately $200 more per student than it costs to operate the high school, and that the mechanical and electrical systems "have far outlived their original lifetimes." Miller stated that the cost of replacing the middle school's outdated electrical service - a point of contention for teachers and students who are working in a digital age but in classrooms built before several electrical outlets per wall were necessary - combined with the mechanical system's replacement would cost approximately $5 million.

Additionally, the new gymnasium floor contains mercury and should be replaced, costing an estimated $60,000. Stockdale related that he has been making phone calls to find a firm that handles mercury abatement but so far has been unsuccessful.

Roof leaks have become persistent in areas of the middle school building, and to replace the mechanical and electrical systems but still have a leaky, unreliable roof could prove a financial stumbling block.

Miller advised the board to examine the numbers for the middle school's operation and repairs closely and to make decisions about the building before the state attempts to intervene.

Questions arose concerning whether the high school and elementary building has enough instructional capacity for middle school students - better known as "intermediate elementary" students - to be taught in Spring Valley and what the implications of moving them here would be, such as busing savings, how many families on the district's northern border might choose to send their students to Chatfield and how many the district might gain from improving its instructional space to accommodate PLTW science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming.

Board chairman Doug Plaehn cited the passage of Rochester's Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative and how the growing Rochester workforce may choose to locate outside of the city, settling in smaller towns such as Spring Valley and Wykoff just to be close to a "good school district."

McDonald stated that he feels that further review of the various options Miller presented will be on the horizon. "As we go forward, we have to look at where we spend dollars for the facility to give kids the best 21st century learning."