The Union School Board spent the majority of its Wednesday evening workshop making final decisions on the basic layout of its proposed elementary school.
HTK Architects President Mark Franzen and architect Matt Patterson presented designs for a two-story elementary school requested by the board and fielded several design questions and requests.
The second-story idea came after several board members visited an elementary school in the Lindbergh School District in St. Louis and thought a multi-level school might be an option for Union R-XI.
However, at Wednesday’s workshop, the possibility of a second story at the new elementary school collapsed due to cost, space and accessibility issues.
Board President Dr. Virgil Weideman said the look of a two-story elementary school would suit the neighborhood and noted that Central Elementary, which features a second story, has been praised in the past for its aesthetics.
After a discussion with the board and others at the workshop and a tally vote for both options that showed little support for building up, Weideman said it was clear the second story was no longer an option.
“I want the community to be proud of this building,” Weideman said. “I want people to say the school district spent their money well. If we can get a single story that has a wow factor to it that looks super nice and is functional, then we’ve got the best of both worlds.”
From a numbers standpoint, Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold noted, the second story wouldn’t make sense. The money that would need to be spent on the second story and the amenities needed to support it — stairs, an elevator and several other considerations — could be better spent on other things, he said.
“It’s strictly numbers,” Weinhold said. “I like the learning environments of both of them but I can’t (support) the two story.”
While Franzen said the roughly $2 million difference between a one-story and a two-story school could be squeezed, he said he wasn’t sure how much cheaper a second story could be.
One possible use for the money saved by sticking with a one-story building, Weinhold said, was the need for a road the district may have to fund itself between Prairie Dell and Progress Parkway.
Several board members agreed that the look of a second story would add to the “wow” factor of the school, but said the ends didn’t justify the means. Cost, students going up and down stairs and wasted space were among the concerns.
Board member Christy Eads said she worries that the cost of an elevator and ongoing maintenance on it would be problematic.
“I like the one story the best,” Eads said. “The ongoing cost of an elevator is very expensive. I’d rather spend the money in the classrooms where we know it’s going to be used all the time.”
Board member Matt Borgmann agreed with Eads. He also noted that students going up and down stairs was problematic and that the money could be best used elsewhere.
“The big reason is the cost ... I’d rather add that to a single story,” Borgmann said.
In the end, the board agreed that a one-story design was the best option for the district. Weideman said he hoped HTK could give the one-story building a “wow” factor.
The board has met every Wednesday this month in an effort to get the plan to a state where it can be translated to ballot language as to meet the Jan. 23 submission deadline.
Weinhold said the board will be voting to submit the ballot measure at its monthly meeting Wednesday, Jan. 17. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the high school’s board room.