Troy Miller, of TSP, shares the benefits and drawbacks of three options the district has chosen to consider in pursuing a single site at which to educate its students.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Troy Miller, of TSP, shares the benefits and drawbacks of three options the district has chosen to consider in pursuing a single site at which to educate its students. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
"As we were looking at and gathering information, we started on a very good and productive journey, and the input of everyone here is very, very important," said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald, speaking to Kingsland's special facilities committee.

The committee returned to the high school conference room last Tuesday evening to review single-site education options, of which it has three out of an original five facility options. The first two options included making repairs at the Wykoff building, and the board and committee chose not to pursue those options.

The special facilities committee formed on Oct. 7 is comprised of board Chairman Doug Plaehn, board members Gwen Howard and Deb Larson, McDonald, Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich, Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Christopher Priebe, grounds and maintenance director Scott Stockdale, athletic director Tom Speltz, business manager Todd Lechtenberg, elementary school teacher Tara Holmen, middle school teacher Emily Biske and high school teachers Andrew Brouwer and Jen Orth, district tech manager Bob Tieffenbacher and transportation director Kevin Klomps.

Troy Miller and Justine Pliska of TSP, the architectural firm the district hired to handle facility use exploration, were on hand to explain why the committee might choose to select one of the remaining three single-site options to best serve the students' educational needs.

The first of the third option's subdivided options, 3A, places 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, which would impact taxes on a $100,000 homesteaded residential property at $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.

Committee members focused on how to fit all of the district's approximately 630 students into the high school and elementary school building, as the process hinges on scheduling and whether enough instructional space is available at any given time during the day.

Currently, the options Miller reviewed proposed that with the greater flexibility allowed by the use of iPads and technology within the school building, the need for assigned classroom space would be reduced, freeing up classrooms as upper level students and possibly even teachers circulate throughout the day. Miller shared that transforming the library into a student union or flexible learning space would fit the district's mission to give students a 21st century education, but elementary and middle school teachers involved in the facility update process have expressed their dismay that the books and media resources for lower grades might be put into the classrooms, where "there's just no room left."

The implementation of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) in kindergarten through 12th grade has imposed dedicated and flexible use of classrooms, as some classes require what the architect called "messy labs" and "clean labs," and could encompass the construction of a foods lab that would incorporate ag instruction, the continued use of the existing physics and biology labs that have been put to work for PLTW courses, and for industrial technology and ag classes to combine - depending on what the PLTW project of the day is.

Biske asked, "With the science labs, what happens if we need to have them set up for the day? For Project Lead the Way, we some days can't take our labs down - we have to leave them. Maybe a mock schedule would be helpful, because it could be different depending on what's being taught."

In addition to classroom space being a concern, gymnasiums and cafeterias are the "pinch points" within the district's existing buildings - if the Wykoff building is no longer in commission, the district is losing two gymnasiums, and the Kingsland Café at the high and elementary school was originally intended as a multipurpose room for the elementary students to use for physical education classes between and after meals being served there. All three remaining options provide for a field house and locker rooms to be built, though in various configurations affecting how games and practices are scheduled.

The proposed addition of an auditorium raised some questions, such as whether doing so would be practical, whether the space would be used during the school day or left idle, and how big it would need to be in order to be considered a useful community asset. Converting the existing gymnasium to an auditorium, for $4,120,948, would be a beginning option, but Stockdale pointed out that "the gym is an acoustic nightmare...the HVAC system turns on while there are performances, and we can't turn it off because people will get cold."

Renovating the existing fitness space - which formerly was the gym stage - would cost $1,639,245, relocating the stage in the existing gymnasium would cost $2,591,990, building a new house and stage within the existing gymnasium for $2,891,350, or a completely new auditorium for $5,125,673.

Holmen inquired, "How many seats will it have if you build a new auditorium? Our elementary concerts get pretty big."

Priebe cited that the gym "seats 400 comfortably."

Miller noted, "The factors are how big you make the stage. That's actually more important than how many seats there are." He went on to list the numerous uses other districts have found for their auditoriums, including as a presentation hall for larger classes if tablet arms are installed on every other seat, as a meeting place for drama and speech classes and clubs, a convening point for English and other language classes, and of course, as a performance space for the fine arts departments.

As the end of the planned two-hour workshop session arrived, Plaehn asked whether the architect and district have taken the possibility of growth into account as decisions are being made and presented to the public. "How much growth do you think we can absorb? At what point might we have to build again?"

McDonald answered, "We're looking at growth and capacity, and we'd like that the administration will work on the flow of students in kindergarten through 12th grade and present a schedule at the next workshop."

Another workshop is set for this Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room. The committee will continue its discussion about scheduling and classroom use, as indicated by McDonald.