Flynn: Wakonda School building proposal is step forward

Flynn: Wakonda School building proposal is step forward by M. Jill Karolevitz �If we stand still, we�re really stepping backwards.�

That simple statement, made by Wakonda Superintendent Ron Flynn, lends credence to the proposed construction project at Wakonda School.

A Wakonda School District bond election will be held Nov. 14 to determine whether the public is in favor of a $2,150,000 bond issue to pay for constructing a new elementary school addition, including a school/community library, remodeling the existing school and furnishing the project. A 60 percent majority vote is needed to pass the bond issue.

The polls in the old gym of the Wakonda School will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the day of the election.

Cramped facilities have prompted discussion of expansion at the school for many years. Serious plans, however, recently began to take shape.

The Wakonda School Board, Building Project Steering Committee members and architect Glenn Mannes of Yankton, have designed a one-story addition for office space, as well as elementary, special education, Early Childhood and Chapter I classrooms. The structure will be built on the eastern side of the existing school.

Remodeling plans are also in the works for the building currently in use. Those include the installation of an elevator in the stage area of the old gym, new heating and air conditioning, moving office space into former grade school classrooms and installing safety features, such as higher stairwell railings on the second floor. Parking areas will be improved. A joint city-school library will also be part of the new addition.

Flynn explained some of the reasons for the construction project.

�One of the problems we face is that we have all of our students � kindergarten through grade 12 � in one building,� he said. �The new addition would move kindergarten through sixth grade into a building of their own, giving secondary students more room.�

Although student population is down from last year, more space is still needed, Flynn said.

�People will say, ?you shouldn�t be cramped, you don�t have as many kids as before�,� he said. �But they forget, when we went to school � for me it was over 30 years ago � we didn�t have special education, Title or pre-school. We didn�t have computer labs. Now we have two, and computers take up more space than a piece of chalk. It all takes up space, and as it stands, it puts us in a crunch for rooms.�

Besides increasing the number of classrooms, advantages of the proposed building project are many, according to Flynn. The new classrooms will be 850 square feet. The elevator will put the school into ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, should a disabled student enroll at Wakonda. And the city-school library will accommodate more than just students, with easy access for the public.

�The combined city-school library is a

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major feature of this project,� said school board member Van Moser. �A school shouldn�t just be for students. We need to get people in there more than for athletic events. The library would provide many opportunities for the public, including computer access. If we pass this bond issue, we want to give something back to the public.

�The board�s feeling is that we need to upgrade our 1922 building to provide a better learning environment for our students and staff,� Moser continued. �And the addition of the elementary wing will separate the students � shared facilities aren�t always good for little kids.�

A needs assessment was completed several years ago, which prompted the school board to maintain the existing building because of its structural soundness.

�The needs assessment noted remodeling was necessary, but we got good marks otherwise,� Moser said. �That swayed our thinking to renovate the present building.�

�It�s built like the Rock of Gibraltar,� Flynn added.

Flynn has been at Wakonda School for 22 years. He has served as a coach, teacher and principal and this is his first year as superintendent. He is also secondary principal for grades seven through 12. Kay Lueth is the elementary principal.

�This is the first major building project we�ve talked about since I came,� he said. �The new gym was built in 1975 but there hasn�t been anything since then.

�We can�t be lulled into a false sense of security thinking this will go through,� he continued. �But we do have to be conscious of the future. We have to look at what other schools are doing. That�s not to say we�re simply trying to keep up with the Joneses when you look at the building that�s been done at schools in neighboring communities. We just think it�s time for us to make some progress.�

Losing students to open enrollment is also a consideration.

�We can�t guarantee student retention, but this project will help,� Moser said.

Moser and Flynn are proud of the education Wakonda School provides for its students.

�We have a fine educational system,� Moser said. �The test scores show it on both state and national levels.�

The community is also proud of its school. Past surveys of Wakonda School District residents show that the community�s number one priority is to keep its school open.

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