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Huron schools face major challenges

Posted: Tuesday, Jan 8th, 2013

HURON — Jeff Hazard from the Koch Hazard architectural firm in Sioux Falls will be in Huron Monday to deliver his company’s facilities report to the public. Koch Hazard was hired last fall to study the buildings and school facilities in the Huron district and come up with recommendations and options for renovating Huron’s schools to accommodate the continuing enrollment growth.

Since any option the Huron Board of Education chooses will involve a large price tag, the public is encouraged to attend this meeting and hear the report and learn what options are possible.

“We want the public to know that this is your school district and this is your meeting,” said Terry Nebelsick, superintendent of schools. “We want everyone to come and express their views and ask questions. The board needs to hear from the community to know what direction to go.”

Nebelsick said about 60 letters have been mailed to community members.

“We wrote letters to any person whose name was submitted by other community members, school board members or staff members,” he said. “The reason is to create a core of people directly invited to the meeting. But the danger of sending letters is the possibility of missing anyone who might want to attend,” he continued. “We want to encourage all patrons to come to the meeting.”

The meeting will be held in the high school commons and will begin at 7 p.m. Board President Tim Van Berkum will chair the meeting, which will begin with the facilities report presented by Hazard followed by a facilities financing report by Kelly Christopherson, the district’s business manager. A substantial block of time will be allocated for a question/answer period and discussion. The meeting will conclude with the board asking for volunteers to serve on a committee to advise the board and promote a bond election to fund the school renovations. The Koch Hazard report proposes four options for the district, all centering on reconfiguring, renovating and updating the elementary schools.

• Option A calls for kindergarten at Buchanan; first/second at Madison; third/fourth at Washington; and fifth grade at the middle school. This plan would continue with phase two construction at Madison, major expansion of Washington and an addition at the middle school to fully accommodate grades five through eight.

• Option B would have kindergarten at Buchanan; first/second at Madison; third/fourth at Washington; and a new building to house the fifth grade. Along with the new school, this option calls for continuing phase two building at Madison and the major renovation of Washington.

• Option C envisions kindergarten at Buchanan; first/second at Madison; third grade at Washington; and a new center to house grades four and five. This building plan would include the completion of phase two at Madison and a much smaller addition to Washington along with the new school.

• Option D would put kindergarten/first grade in Buchanan; second/third at Madison; and grades four and five in Washington. The construction involved in this model would include an addition at Buchanan, phase two of the remodeling at Madison and the major renovation at Washington.

Koch Hazard did look into the viability of keeping Jefferson open as a school, but do not recommend using it to house students due to the lack of playground space. If the district does decide to keep it open, it would see the addition of classrooms and a gymnasium and would fall into Option B. These additions would seriously reduce the playground area, so Koch Hazard believes this building should only be used for fifth graders, if at all.

Some board members, such as John Halbkat, have said they are leaning toward Option D because they like the idea of bringing the fifth graders back into an elementary school setting.

The entire facilities report is available on the district’s website at www.huron.k12.sd.us then click on the link to the report. The entire meeting will be taped to be televised later on Huron Tiger Network, which is aired on channel 6.

The board of education is looking for direction from the community to move forward on these renovations, as the explosion in school enrollment is causing the elementary schools to lack adequate space to provide a quality education to the students.

“The timeline for all these options begins in 2013, which is this year,” said Christopherson. “We need to move forward with these decisions sooner rather than later.”

Christopherson will outline a proposal for 35-year general obligation bonds to put before the voters to fund the renovations.

Nebelsick pointed out that the middle school, high school and arena have all seen renovations and upgrades and now it is time for the community to turn its attention to the elementary schools.

For the complete article see the 01-04-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-04-2013 paper.

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