School upgrades, $6 million needed for improvements

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Central superintendent and elementary principal Nick Trenkamp stands between two aging boilers that need to be replaced soon.

 

By Pam Reinig

Register editor

A $6 million bond referendum for improvements to the Central School building could go before voters as early as June 30. If it passes, work at the school could start in 2016 with completion of the project following in about 36 months.

But as urgent as the upgrades are, school officials aren’t going to rush things. Approval of the bond issue is so important that Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp and school board members might delay the vote if they feel more time is needed to educate the public on the school’s needs.

“If we don’t get positive feedback on this, we’ll push the vote back to February 2016,” Trenkamp said. “”Of course, that makes it unlikely that we could break ground until the following year.”

Approval requires a “yes” vote by 60 percent of people who go to the polls that day. Only residents of communities that feed into Central Schools would be eligible to vote. If passed, taxes on a home assessed at $100,000 would increase by $137 a year. The increase for farmers with more than 500 acres would be more but it would be based on the assessed value of the farmland and not market value..

It’s been several decades since the school has gone to voters with a bond request. Most improvements have been covered with ongoing funds; higher ticket items have been delayed. According to experts who have toured the building, the renovations address issues of the aging structure that need to be corrected within the next five years. An exception is proposed changes that would enhance safety.

Trenkamp has scheduled numerous meetings to inform voters of upgrade plans. He’s already met with Central faculty and staff. A public forum is planned Sunday, March 15, at 5 p.m. in the auditorium. Trenkamp will also meet with local groups, clubs and organizations—anyone with an interest in Central’s future.

The first phase of renovations would involve converting the current secondary school media center on the building’s main floor into a commons/cafeteria area. This part of the project would also include implementing additional security features. For example, the middle school and high school entrance would remain on the First Street side of the building. Visitors to Central would be able to enter into a foyer area but would not be allowed beyond that point until “buzzed” in by school staff. A similar set-up would be created for the elementary entrance on the Davis Street side of the building.

 The current cafeteria space would be renovated into a fitness center; the first-floor media center would be relocated to the third floor.

According to Trenkamp, much of the project will be focused on addressing handicap accessibility issues. Central is a three-story building with 22 different elevations. Here’s just one example: The middle school gym, which is several steps lower than the main floor, is separated from the weight room by six steps. There are 16 steps between the weight room and the cardio area. Athletes who are rehabbing from a foot, ankle or leg injury can’t make the climb on their own. A similar hodge-podge of steps separates some of the elementary classrooms.

The $6 million proposal has no fluff, Trenkamp said. It includes money to upgrade the overall facility and do repairs that have been put off for years.

“Our air handling systems is shot and our boilers need to be replaced,” he added. “”With or without a bond, we face the reality of those expenses. If we are forced to pay for them from current funds, well, that will leave us really strapped for other expenses.”

The school now requires two older, oversized boilers. A new boiler would be half the size of one of the current units and it would be more energy efficient.

The project will bring the school into the 21st century and will make it useable for many, many years to come. That’s important for many reasons, not the least of which is Trenkamp’s projection that enrollment at Central will remain steady or increase slightly in the near future.

“We currently have more kids per class size in elementary than middle school and high school,” Trenkamp said. “If you project that out, you can see that enrollment will increase the next few years, not drastically but numbers will be up.”

 

 

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