Building-improvement plans move ahead for Vermillion schools

Building-improvement plans move ahead for Vermillion schools
A financial consultant is moving forward with issuing $1.65 million in certificates for the new Jolley School addition and new middle school roof ventilation system, according to Vermillion's school officials.

Superintendent Mark Froke provided an update during Monday night's school board meeting. The Jolley School addition, slated for completion next fall, will help meet an enrollment surge in the lower grades. The baby boomlet, along with new and growing programs, have created a space crunch at the elementary schools.

The district will issue capital-outlay certificates to finance the project, Froke said. The certificates will carry a rate of 3.75 percent to 4.45 percent, with the school district incurring a debt ranging from $120,000 to $130,000, he said.

"Darwin Reider, our financial consultant, will (issue) the certificates soon," the superintendent said. "He will meet Jan. 22 with you (board members) for the proper documentation and motions."

The district will pay $1.35 million for the elementary building, Froke said. In addition, the district will pursue a $300,000 project for improving the middle school ventilation system, he said.

The $1.65 million figure includes insurance and other costs, which are built into the 20-year repayment schedule, Froke said. "It's advantageous to do it all at once," he said.

The building plan calls for an addition of about 9,100 square feet to the southeast area of Jolley School, which has room for expansion. In turn, second grade will be moved from Austin School to Jolley School. The project would provide a net increase of seven classrooms, each about 850 to 900 square feet, along with renovation to the restrooms.

Vermillion school attorney Jim McCulloch said he noted areas he wanted changed after reviewing the agreement with the TSP architectural firm of Sioux Falls. TSP officials have made those changes to school officials' satisfaction, McCulloch said.

TSP officials have set a maximum fee for their services, Froke said. "They are charging $85,000 max for the architect. If it takes less time than anticipated, the fee will be reduced," he said.

Froke has emphasized the Jolley School project was modest and would meet the needs of moderate growth in the district of about 1,300 students. The project will not use opt-out dollars for construction and will not require a bond issue or tax increase, he said.

Currently, Austin School contains grades kindergarten through second, while Jolley School contains grades third through fifth. Moving second grade to Jolley School will free up space at Austin for larger incoming classes, as well as programs now facing a space crunch, Froke said.

Projections call for Austin to increase from 321 students this year to 338 in 2007-08, then ease to 326. As those students move through the elementary grades, Jolley will increase from 296 students in 2008 to 321 in 2009, 338 in 2010 and then 326 in 2011.

Based on those projections, the high school could grow by as much as 60 students in a decade.

The Vermillion School District has already added sections to kindergarten and first grade at Austin School, creating a space crunch, Froke said.

Gov. Mike Rounds said during Monday's briefing with reporters that he plans to promote more preschool programs during the 2007 Legislature. Vermillion school officials have said such a move could create more pressure on their facilities.

As for the Vermillion Middle School project, board chairman Merrigan noted the replacement of the ventilation unit in the roof will take care of an on-going need at the facility. The final result will be greater energy efficiency, saving money in the long run, he said.

"It will free up capital-outlay funds to go toward debt repayment (for the project)," he said.

Also at Monday's meeting, the board issued contracts to teachers under the new negotiated agreement and issued a memorandum of understanding that prevents six teachers from losing salary under the new agreement.

The board also approved the first reading to new student policies. A second reading was given to the new hazing policy. The board also approved Misty Wells as third-grade teacher and Amber Chamberlin as special education assistant.

During Monday's meeting, Froke informed the board that Sioux Falls chamber and school officials will present their proposal for education funding in the 2007 Legislature during a Thursday noon luncheon at the Al Neuharth Media Center on The University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion.

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