Concerns about overcrowding at the Union R-XI School District started several years ago when “bubbles,” or large influxes of students, started coming through the district’s elementary schools.
Now, with temporary solutions like Central Elementary’s modular classrooms in place, the district and community are edging closer to a possible solution.
Hand-picked members of the district and surrounding community gathered for the second time to discuss how best to solve Union R-XI’s overcrowding issues Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Clark-Vitt elementary.
The crowd of more than 30 community members, district staff and school board members discussed the several project options laid out before the district, broke into groups to build pros and cons lists on the possible projects and heard some early projections on costs.
Weinhold presented what he described as “soft,” early projections on what it would cost to build an elementary school on the district’s land and construct a sixth-grade center addition on an existing school or property.
A K-5 or K-6 setting at the district-owned land near East Central College, which is currently used as a farm by the Union FFA, could cost in the range of $12.7-16.3 million depending on square footage. A sixth grade center could cost anywhere from $3.8-4.9 million. Together, Weinhold said, those projects could help solve the overcrowding problem at Union.
The total project, according to Weinhold’s early estimate, could cost $16.5-21.3 million.
Currently, there are two no-tax increase bond issues that will be available to the school in upcoming elections. In April 2018 a $20 million bond is available and in April 2019 the district has a $23 million bonding capacity.
Weinhold also estimated that if a new elementary school was built personnel and operational costs would in the district would raise by roughly $1.5 million per year.
To alleviate those future costs, steps are being taken to decrease operation costs around the district.
Currently, the district has a “to-do” list that has been at each meeting with the community. On it is a central warehouse where maintenance items and other extra materials could be stored. One community member suggested that if a new elementary school was built, Clark-Vitt Elementary could be used as storage and classroom for special classes and at-risk students.
Weinhold said that may be a possible solution that would save money for the district.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Mabe said the district currently has seven architectural companies from around the state vying for their business. The school board received packets detailing each of the firm’s proposals at its most recent school board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 20, and members are expected to discuss those bids in early October.
“It’s the board’s job to look at those proposals,” Weinhold told the crowd. “They will interview architects, hire one and start narrowing the focus based on what you tell us.”
A date for the next facilities meeting was not discussed, but Weinhold said after the board would take time to review the packets a date would be decided on.