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KIDS First holds Forum on school bond election at Jefferson school

Posted: Monday, Mar 25th, 2013

HURON — Parents and staff were on hand during the parent teacher conference held at Jefferson Elementary School Thursday evening to hear from the KIDS First committee about the upcoming school bond election on Tuesday, April 9.

What is proposed is a $22M bond project that needs a 60 percent vote for the project that would see additions to Madison, Washington and Buchanan elementary schools.

One of the interesting things about Thursday’s presentation was that it was at Jefferson, a school that won’t see any building and will probably not house any student’s in the near future in part because it has no room to expand with the city’s growth.

“The biggest reason out there is that schools have changed,” said KIDS First chairman Garret Bischoff. “It was the three R’s when these schools were built. Now there are so many other programs that weren’t meant to be in the space we have here.”
Jefferson was built for classes the size of under 20 students, about 18.

According to Bischoff some of the district’s elementary schools have classrooms of around 24 students and a few as many as 29.

Other facilities issues include gyms that because they are too small for the entire school to attend assemblies that often two assemblies are held, possibly cutting down learning time.

The district’s lunch program complicates the gym issue and storage is also a problem at the schools with either storage items in the halls or students in the storage areas because of lack of learning space.

According to KIDS First and a study by the architectural firm Koch Hazard from Sioux Falls, the growing numbers will continue.

“They (Koch Hazard) went out and toured all the facilities and visited with some local businesses with the help of Greater Huron Development (Corporation),” said Bischoff. “They got an idea of what the job growth will be in Huron over the next few years.”

The number is 150 more students will need to be housed by the district.

“Enrollment is up 57 percent from 10 years ago and will be up 37 percent in 2017,” said Bischoff.

The presentation also revealed some numbers as far as cost to renovate, upgrade or build a new school.

“If we go out and build new facilities it’s $183 a square foot, if we renovate it’s $90 a square foot and if we just upgrade what we already have it’s $30 a square foot,” said Bischoff.

By adding on to the original structures, the district can reduce the costs instead of building new schools.

Madison, Washington and Buchanan elementary schools all were planned with adding on and growth in mind, unfortunately Jefferson doesn’t have that option.

Jefferson is bound on all sides by residential areas and would only be able to expand at the expense of what little playground space the school has now.

“If we went out and added on to this building we would lose our playgrounds,” said Bischoff. “We would either have to go out and buy houses around the school or we would have to find some other space.”

So moving forward with what is known as option D the district would begin to expand the other three schools which would shift some of the grades.

The biggest change would be moving the fifth graders back out of the middle school, a move the district was forced into because of the overcrowding.

“It was one of the more important things about the plan — taking fifth grade out of the middle school,” said Bischoff.

Buchanan would become the districts kindergarten and first grade center.

Madison would become the second and third grade center.

Washington would become the home to fourth and fifth graders.

The new designs even leave the possibilities for future growth and more additions instead of the costly prospect of building a new school.

The major addition to all three of the schools besides the additional classrooms is relieving the gym and lunch room sharing problem all of the schools have.

More from Thursday night’s forum will appear with coverage from a similar event that is being held this morning at City Hall.

The school bond issue will be discussed after a school board forum that is scheduled for 10:15 a.m.

For the complete article see the 03-23-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-23-2013 paper.

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