School options discussed: School Board reviews concept-facility assessments for master planning of elementary schools
The Jamestown Public School Board reviewed concept-facility assessments for master planning of the city's elementary schools Thursday at a special meeting.
The Jamestown Public School Board reviewed concept-facility assessments for master planning of the city’s elementary schools Thursday at a special meeting.
The School Board will now look for feedback from education staff, parents and the community on a combination of ideas.
“With the report out, this should stir more conversation and get more people involved in the decisions,” School Board President Roger Haut said.
Recommendations for four concepts were developed by DLR Group, an architectural design firm based in Minneapolis. The concepts were based on an enrollment study that projects a 7 percent increase in Jamestown’s K-12 school population to reach 2,380 pupils by 2020.
“We are going to be very busy over the next few months getting this information out to staff and parents and getting their input,” said Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Robert Lech, adding that the responsible thing to do is adjust now to the demographics and develop a concept from the recommendations that is best suited for the long term.
DLR Group Principal Christopher Gibbs presented the recommendations based on a school facilities assessment study. It produced a three-option plan based on an anticipated five-year, 1,200-student population growth with 10 sections in each grade level.
As board members express concerns over possible school closings, Gibbs explained that the plans are meant to stir discussion and serve as a foundation in an ongoing process.
“The overall master planning and design process is in the planning phase and the intent is to gather information,” Gibbs said.
Lech said he and Gibbs will continue to discuss how to move forward with this information and the school district should be holding community forums within the next few months.
The concepts are alternatives to deferred maintenance options that run approximately $44.9 million for estimated structural improvements at all city schools. Gussner Elementary School alone was $5.4 million, followed by Lincoln Elementary at $5.1 million, Louis L’Amour Elementary at $2.2 million, Roosevelt Elementary at $5 million and Washington Elementary at $5.3 million. The middle school deferred maintenance is at $13.2 million or $19 million depending on certain work. The high school is at $2.9 million, the alternative high school at $1 million and the James Valley Career and Technology Center at $4.8 million.
* Option 1 is the least expensive alternative with the least amount of change at $23.9 million. It adds a new two-section elementary school for 240 students and makes Louis L’Amour Elementary a two-section building. A one-section school would have one version of each grade. It would also update three elementary buildings and eliminate Washington as a K-5 facility.
* Option 2 was called the most efficient and expensive at $34.9 million, according to the DLR Group study recommendation. It eliminates Washington and Roosevelt elementary schools, adds one new four-section elementary school and converts Louis L’Amour to a two-section building.
* Option 3 costs $31.5 million or $33.5 million if a gymnasium is added to Roosevelt. It would eliminate Washington and update Louis L’Amour and Gussner schools to accommodate 360 students and renovate Roosevelt and Lincoln to handle 240 students.
A fourth option offers no alternatives but would essentially manage growth within the current structures. It is not a recommended option in the DLR Group study.
The assessment also compared school and community rankings of priority-guiding principles. The nearly identical conclusions ranked engaged learning at the top, followed by flexibility of spaces, safety and security, promotion of collaboration, creative spaces, equality of opportunity, quality of facilities and sense of pride.
“Quite frankly, we don’t see that in every community we work in,” Gibbs said.
The biggest gaps are with focus for highest impact. Gibbs said this disparity should be part of the guiding principles in development moving forward. Safety and security, function that supports education, flexibility with adjacent space and school locations were also priorities.
Board member Robert Toso said forums would need to be held to explore the options with the community.
“We need input from the parents because they are the ones who will be affected by this,” he said.
School Board member Gail Martin said she felt the options should consider where elementary school children are living when considering school closings, additions and new construction. She said shared resources, level class sizes and fixing schools are all parts of a puzzle the board needs to consider.
“We may not need to spend all those millions if we go to a grade-level concept,” Martin said.
Board member Greg Allen expressed concern that school closings would result in layoffs of staff and faculty.
Lech said the priority of efficiency is about what is best for the students and not about cutting costs. The closing of a school and an expansion of another would mean transfer of jobs but he could not speak about cuts at this stage.
Board member Terry Anderson said other options could include decommissioning Lincoln and expanding Louis L’Amour in the southwest and Gussner in the northeast and building a new school at a central location to accommodate new growth.
“What would prohibit that other than cost?” he said.
Lech said a three-school system, with Louis L’Amour and Gussner holding 360 students each, would leave 480 students to house in a new school and that would cost more than $30 million.
Board member Heidi Larson said she had ideas of what might work, but it would take time to assess all options and take everything into consideration.
“It is good to have some options,” Larson said. “This will help engage the community and we can see what they are thinking.”
There have been 12 meetings so far with staff and community. There is still room for input and change, Gibbs said.
In other business, the board approved a one-year leave of absence for Rachel Kastet, a fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary. The board then approved the hire of Kevin Peterson as the replacement teacher until Kastet’s return.
The board also approved the hire of April Lacy Showers as a teacher and coordinator of the English language learners staff across K-12.
Sun reporter Tom LaVenture can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org