Mike Hoheisel talks about Kingsland's finances and the tax impact of a facilities referendum during a workshop held last Wednesday evening.  At left are Kingsland School Board members Troy Archer and Gwen Howard.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Mike Hoheisel talks about Kingsland's finances and the tax impact of a facilities referendum during a workshop held last Wednesday evening. At left are Kingsland School Board members Troy Archer and Gwen Howard. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland's school board gathered last Wednesday evening to re-examine the facility options it has considered to meet students' educational needs due to changing curriculum.

The board is looking at several building options that could include a referendum as well as increased taxes of $85.74 to $154.53 per year on a house of $100,000 value. The options also include repairing the building in Wykoff, or shutting down a portion or all of the school in Wykoff.

Troy Miller of TSP and Mike Hoheisel of Northland Securities attended the workshop to lend some assistance in the decision-making process and to update the board on the district's facilities usage options and financial standing.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald opened the workshop by commending the board, staff and administration for the excellence the district has achieved in the past years, as Kingsland has added programming and curriculum such as Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and College in the Schools (CIS). He pointed out that such excellence has made clear the necessity to realign some of the classrooms' uses to fit the programming students are now engaged in on a daily basis. The board and administration are essentially considering three options - the third of which has been subdivided into three additional options.

The first is to make repairs at the middle school building in Wykoff, which could be done through the use of capital facilities bonds or alternative facilities bonds, without a vote of the district's patrons, at a cost of $116,427 of operating capital funds for 10 years. The capital facilities bonds would be a tax-neutral choice, but the alternative facilities bonds would impact taxes on a $100,000 homesteaded residential property at $85.74 per year.

The second is to make repairs at both sites, including some educational improvements, using voter-approved building funds and alternative facilities bonds at a cost of $6,066,782, with a tax implication of $64.60 on voter-approved bonds, and $85.74 in alternative facilities bonds, for a total of $150.34 per year on a $100,000 home.

The first of the third option's subdivided options, 3A, would place a single campus at Spring Valley, offering educational improvements plus the construction of a field house, new locker rooms and a walking track for $12,820,731 over 20 years, with an impact of $114.64.

Option 3B would place a single campus in Spring Valley, including educational improvements, a field house, locker rooms, a walking track and a new auditorium at a cost of $16,941,679 over 20 years with an impact of $151.95.

The third, 3C, would create a single campus at Spring Valley, including educational improvements, a field house, new locker rooms, walking track, auditorium and bus garage for $17,264,687 over 20 years, with an impact of $154.53.

According to a printed Powerpoint presentation Miller shared with the board, the facilities usage evaluation process began "as a study to assess the Spring Valley options to find additional space for preschool and early childhood programs, lab space to provide space for PLTW and advanced placement classes, physical education, and to increase the number of elementary classrooms, address the ways to complete deferred maintenance issues at the Spring Valley building, to complete deferred maintenance issues at the Wykoff building, address the need to improve program and technology needs at the Wykoff building, and (show) operational costs of the options and solutions explored."

McDonald related that the board had contacted the mayors and city councils of both Spring Valley and Wykoff and that each mayor had expressed support of the school district, though Wykoff's mayor, Lyman Hare, expressed his hope that the district would retain a building in Wykoff.

The first option, repairing the middle school in Wykoff, would mean that grade configurations at each building would remain the same, the second would place preschool through fourth in Wykoff and fifth through 12th in Spring Valley, and the remaining options would bring all students to Spring Valley.

Miller inquired, "Can this building support another 22 students per grade?"

McDonald answered, "We could stay a two-section school at the high school and a three-section school at the elementary if we have 750 to 780 students. The high school class sizes are coming in smaller at 40 to 50 students, and we could put another 20 eighth graders in if the high school classes are smaller. We had approximately 75 students per grade when I got here, and now it's in the mid-50s. We do have some room to grow."

Miller stated that the variables involved in making room for students at the current high school and elementary building include teaching delivery and methodology, as new curriculum might not require that teachers have their own classrooms - instead, the teachers and students travel from classroom to classroom - and that could make room for up to 1,000 students, according to the architect.

"We could look at 1,000-plus kids on campus," he observed.

Board member Gwen Howard asked whether the figures laid out for the improvements to the buildings or one building include furniture and other necessities. Miller replied that the estimates do include furniture, which he had previously cited as a major expense that can define a classroom's usage.

Miller also relayed that the gymnasium and the Kingsland Café', which were intended to handle most of the district's high school and physical education needs when the high school was renovated and the elementary moved there in 2008, now no longer can do so because of changes in food service. The Kingsland Café, which was supposed to be a multipurpose gymnasium for the elementary and cafeteria for both the high school and elementary, now is dedicated to two meals a day due to the addition of breakfast to the schedule. Building a field house would provide gymnasium space and move the locker rooms to ground level, which would improve students' supervision and allow for classrooms to be built in the basement-level locker rooms.

"The gym is a pinch point since the cafeteria is dedicated to food service mandates that require breakfast," he said.

He also stated that infrastructure issues that were not addressed during the 2008 remodel and renovation could be dealt with, including installing a mass notification system and updating the mechanical system in the gymnasium, though such mechanical updates would not be necessary if the gym were to be converted to an auditorium and the gymnasium moved to a field house, at which point the existing gymnasium would have its systems replaced for the auditorium.

Board members also discussed how PLTW curriculum and the implementation of the new PLTW pilot program at the elementary would affect classroom space usage.

Howard asked, "We're having Project Lead the Way in kindergarten through sixth grade. How is that going to fit the next school year with kindergarten through third grade?"

McDonald answered, "A trained teacher is going to come over, and they may be team-teaching. They'll do a lot in the present classrooms because the curriculum is designed so that they can do it in the elementary classrooms and don't need an assigned space. They'll be using iPads a lot with the curriculum."

Howard then asked, "What if we move students from Wykoff, where we already have accommodations for Project Lead the Way?"

McDonald replied, "It would be mid-level...fourth, fifth and sixth will have a classroom for Project Lead the Way, and the pilot curriculum will be put into regular science classes."

Miller added, "We'd be adding four Project Lead the Way project-based learning labs, and if you do another community room, it would be an amenity for large projects."

The board spoke briefly about whether it would be prudent to consider moving kindergarten through third grade to the Wykoff building if it were to be repaired, and members also examined how many students would be lost if such a decision were made, determining that most parents who enroll their children in Kingsland's lower elementary prefer to drop them off at school instead of putting them on the bus, unless it's absolutely necessary.

Additionally, McDonald listed lost enrollment among high school students for "various reasons," but related that some have chosen to return to Kingsland because of PLTW and CIS course offerings.

Discussion turned to whether certain repairs at the middle school building are imminent since that building currently has deferred maintenance and new issues - such as mercury abatement that should be done in the gymnasium. Also, Kingsland Grounds and Maintenance Supervisor Scott Stockdale said, "When the sidewalk breaks badly enough, it becomes immediate. The gym floor is not immediate unless the state says it has to be fixed now. Some of it is right now (work), but we're nickel and diming. Several entries have problems, and right now, I guess the quick answer is that we're surviving, but if something breaks, we have to fix it."

Miller proposed demolishing part of the middle school building if the district chooses to keep it in operation because of the costs associated with unused portions of the aging structure. "If you hung on to that building, the best way to save some money is to tear down one of the wings and invest in the rest of the building, or you'll be replacing mechanical components you may never use...if you want to continue to have a presence in Wykoff, look at tearing down a piece of that building, otherwise you'll just be mothballing."

Because the workshop was not an official meeting, no decisions were made regarding action the board would like to take to align its facilities with students' educational needs. More discussion on the topic of facilities usage will continue at the upcoming August board meeting, at which the public is welcome.