Minimum school upgrades start at $30 million

Sunday, February 10, 2019
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Local residents on Wednesday got their first glimpse at school facilities plans developed over months of meetings and research by the members of a school and citizen “core committee” and school district partners Johnson Controls and A&E Architects. A version of one of the scenarios presented may make its way in front of voters as early as May.

Dusty Eaton with A&E Architects presented four scenarios to a group of about 40 people who attended a community meeting Wednesday night at Dawson County High School.

The plans were the result of work by the core committee to find a cost-effective, long-term solution for Glendive Schools that meets the needs of the community, teachers and students, according to Eaton.

He noted the plans came out of a considerable amount of work by the committee and research by both Johnson Controls and A&E as they worked to develop plans that would meet the current and future needs of the Glendive School District.

“We have said let’s just keep generating the ideas so we can genuinely say at the end of this that we’ve flushed all of these out and we’re confident that we are headed in the right direction,” Eaton said.

When developing the scenarios, the group focused on the life-cycle of each building, system needs and upgrades, student capacity, educational environment and grade alignment opportunities.

Also of importance are the two school districts’ bonding capacities, which equates to the maximum bond request that can be put before voters. The bonding capacity of the elementary district is just over $32 million and the high school district is just over $35 million.

Scenario 1

The first scenario presented was to invest in only the critical infrastructure needs in each building. All buildings would remains as is as far as grade alignment and building appearance. The infrastructure fixes would include heating air conditioning and ventilation repair and replacements but would not include things like window replace-

“These are things that are failing today. This is not looking at does the roof need to be replaced five years from now?” Eaton said.

The plan would help eliminate things like the recent plumbing issues at Washington Middle School and the major steam leaks at the high school. However, it would include no long-term life cycle planning for any of the buildings and does not have any educational space impacts.

The taxpayer impact would be approximately $20 million for the elementary district and $10 million for the high school district. The tax impact for a homeowner in both districts with a residence assessed at $100,000 would be $14.63 per month.

Eaton noted that Scenario 1 was a way to “set the edge” of the process, to show the cost to do the bare minimum to get the facilities operational.

“The idea behind this is to get the classrooms so you don’t have students sitting in a 90 degree classroom when it’s 90 degrees outside or when it’s (cold) like it is today (sitting) with the windows open,” he said.

Scenario 2

Scenario 2 would include the demolition or repurposing of Lincoln Elementary School so that is would no longer be used as a school. The potential of keeping the gymnasium to be used as a community recreation center and turning the area around Lincoln into a park was floated, however there are no specific plans.

Scenario 2 also includes using Jefferson and Washington Middle school for grades kindergarten through fifth and building a new middle school for sixth through eighth grades. Scenario 2 will include the same critical infrastructure replacement and upgrades needed at DCHS.

The Scenario 2 cost to taxpayers would be approximately $34 million in the elementary district (which exceed the district’s bonding capacity) and $10 in the high school district.

Scenario 3

Scenario 3 has the same plan for the demolition of Lincoln but would also include the demolition of Jefferson Elementary School. Washington Middle School would be repurposed as a school for kindergarten through fourth graders and would receive critical infrastructure replacement and upgrades. Fewer interior changes would be necessary if WMS was used as an elementary school, Eaton noted.

The plan includes the construction of a grade 5-8 middle school, which could feasibly be built on the Jefferson Elementary School property owned by the district.

Scenario 3 would again make the critical infrastructure replacement and upgrades needed at DCHS.

The cost to taxpayers would be $32 million for the elementary district, which is within the district’s bonding capacity, and $10 million for the high school district.

The tax impact for a homeowner in both districts with a residence assessed at $100,000 would be $21.08 per month.

There were other versions of scenario 3 presented that included more extensive renovations at the high school presented at the meeting.

Scenario 4

Scenario 4 would again include the demolition plans for Lincoln and Jefferson. The plans for WMS would include a full renovation to meet education needs, system upgrades and window replacement, which are not included in the other 3 scenarios.

The plan also includes the construction of a 5-8 school.

At DCHS, the plan calls for the critical infrastructure upgrades envisioned in the first three scenarios as well as a more extensive renovation of about 25,000 square feet of the building.

This would include creating a commons area for students, an auditorium upgrade and reconfiguring the library and creating a new and safer entry space for the school.

The estimated cost to the elementary district would be $42 million, which exceeds the bonding capacity of that district. The cost to the high school district would be $20 million. Because the plan does not fall within the bonding capacity, the impact on taxes was not calculated.

Attendees were given the opportunity to examine the details of each plan and visit with members of the core team and the professional design team. Before leaving, attendees were asked to fill out a ballot indicating how likely they were to support each of the options presented.

The Core Committee must now decide which scenario or combination of scenarios they will recommend to the Glendive Unified School Board.

If the GUSB intends to put a school bond levy on the ballot in May, they must submit ballot language to the Montana Secretary of State before February 26.

The next Glendive Unified School Board meeting is Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.

Reach Jamie Ausk Crisafulli at rreditor@rangerreview.com .

“The idea behind this is to get the classrooms so you don’t have students sitting in a 90 degree classroom when it’s 90 degrees outside or when it’s (cold) like it is today (sitting) with the windows open ,”
Dusty Eaton, A&E Architects

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