Board approves plan to expand high school

Board approves plan to expand high school by David Lias The Vermillion School Board unanimously agreed Monday to complete plans calling for building expansions of Vermillion High School.

The project would renovate and expand the high school library and construct a new commons, kitchen, auditorium and auxiliary gymnasium with locker room facilities.

The current plan would cost nearly $6 million and would add as much as 57,200 square feet to the high school.

Superintendent Robert Mayer said a resolution for funding the project will be introduced sometime in the future after details of the project are finalized.

He said the plan's architect, DLR Group of Omaha, will meet with high school staff this week to start working on the plans.

Mayer told the board Monday that he didn't expect any drastic changes would be made to the plans. "If anything changes, I think it would be the size of the gym," he said.

The building additions likely will be funded with a combination of capital outlay certificates, and funds generated by the issuance of general obligation bonds.

Voters in the Vermillion School District would need to approve the bond issue. Mayer expects the referendum to be set in February, with a public vote in April or May.

Last June, a Vermillion Public Schools Facilities Task Force, appointed by the school board in November 1997, offered its preliminary report to the board.

The task force held its initial meeting Nov. 24. At that meeting, it heard its charge from Superintendent Robert Mayer, discussed administrative functions, and heard presentations from school staff relevant to the facility needs.

At a later meeting, the task force elected Greg Merrigan and Fern Kaufman as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

The task force met six times between November and May 1998. In addition, tours were conducted of the Yankton and Dakota Valley high school facilities. Two of the meetings included presentations from DLR Group.

The role of the task force was to:

1. Investigate the need for the requested facilities.

2. Report to the school board any action that should be taken.

The report to the school board was to include the following:

1. No, there is no need or public support for facility expansion at this time; or

2. Yes, there is a need for the requested facilities.

3. If yes, the following items should be addressed in the report:

a. Prioritize the projects.

b. Recommend a funding plan.

c. Set a time line for a referendum and project completion.

The original proposed additions to the high school as presented by school district staff included: enlargement of library area, addition of an auditorium with stage, addition of an auxiliary gymnasium with space for gymnastics, wrestling and a locker area.

The expansion of the library would also create the need for a new space for a commons/dining area within the kitchen.

The task force also reviewed and discussed other items for possible inclusion in the overall project. These included administrative offices, bus storage, additional classrooms, parking, storage, and kitchen and energy efficiency measures.

Following this review, the task force prioritized the items to be included in the proposed additions. The proposals, which included the original items as presented by the staff, were conveyed to the consultant in early February.

The first presentation from the consultant included 63,000 square feet of space costing $6,918,086. The majority of the new additions were proposed to be located to the east of the present building.

Following a meeting and discussions with the task force, the consultant presented a second proposal that trimmed down the square footage and cost of the project. The second layout presented the additions in a more central manner in relation to the existing building.

School Board President Tom Craig noted Monday the board doesn't have enough information yet to be able to predict the exact cost of the building project.

The board can expect final cost estimates in January.

Mayer said that after the plans are finished, they will come back to the board for final approval and to set the referendum amounts.

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