February 17, 2015

Final cost for new high school is $52.2 million

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

After months of cutting and trimming, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 now has a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for its new high school.
During the school board’s regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 9, the board made the final changes that bring the GMP to $52,257,325, which includes architectural fees as well as the furniture and equipment needed to complete the building.
According to Steve Holen, district superintendent, the district will sign the final contract, based on that GMP amount with Kraus-Anderson and Construction Engineers at the board’s March meeting.
During Monday night’s meeting, the board elected to add the classroom cabinets back into the project, as well as the wood veneer that was removed earlier. But in an effort to keep the building within its budget, the decision was made to eliminate the box seats in the theater.
“The district still has $883,702 of bid alternates that have not been accepted and can be considered for potential outside sources, such as fundraising efforts,” stated Holen. “Those would include bleachers for the gym, theater equipment, and grille equipment. The district also has $455,152 of items in the value engineers component it has yet to accept that could be reduced from the project total.”
With the guaranteed maximum price for the new high school, the board turned its attention to how to handle the anticipated influx of new students next fall.
“We are expecting to have 150 new students next fall,” stated Holen. “And that growth is going to pose some issues both at the elementary school and at the high school.”
According to Holen, who presented two options to bring more portable classrooms to the elementary school,  the decision will be made based on the number of students that the district is willing to have per classroom for grades kindergarten through second grade.
One of the options adds six portables in addition to the six the district is currently using at the elementary school, which would bring the total number of portables to 12, while the other scenario only adds four portables for a total of 10.
Based on initial growth estimates, Holen told the board that there could be seven additional sections added to the elementary school, which would require the hiring of seven additional teachers.
“We could be looking at having seven sections in grades kindergarten through the second grade, six sections in grade three and five sections in grades four and five,” stated Holen. “That would be a growth of seven sections from this year if we want to keep our class sizes similar to what they are.”
But if the board agrees to increasing class size, the number of sections could be reduced.
“If we want to have 23 plus students in a classroom for kindergarten through the second grade, we could have fewer sections,” stated Holen. “But we are not used to having those numbers in a lower grade classroom.”
But regardless of the board’s decision on class size or the number of portables needed, Holen indicated that music would have to be moved to a portable in order to make room for more students, and all of the Title 1 classrooms would have to be converted to regular classrooms.
“At the end of the day, we have to use the projected number of students being provided to us from RSP & Associates as being real,” stated Holen. “We need to be comfortable with the class size and the number of portables.”
While the growth in the elementary school student numbers is creating problems for the school board, Holen says there are also issues with increased student numbers at the existing high school.
“The questions we are going to have to answer are whether we hire a new fifth grade math teacher and can we get all our seventh and eighth grade math classes covered?”
The problem at the high school, according to Holen, is that the building is running out of space for more classrooms. And it is not realistic to have portables because of a lack of space.
“We’re currently teaching five out of six class periods in each of the classrooms in the high school,” stated Holen. “There is not much opportunity to add more classrooms.”
As an option to free up classroom space, Holen said that using an “open campus” concept for grades six through 12 may be an option the board needs to consider.
“If a student doesn’t have a class, they can leave the school,” stated Holen. “It would free up space in the school for additional classrooms. And we may even have to look at using the wrestling room as a classroom.”
But according to Holen, the bright side is that with the new high school being ready by January of 2016, the district’s issues at the current high school site are relatively short-lived.
“We think that we can make it at the high school for one semester until the new high school opens,” stated Holen. “We have some options to get us through.”