By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– The devil is in the details. And on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the board of directors of the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district found themselves bedeviled by– and at times bogged-down in– details.
The board met at the high school in a special work session to get an update from Shive-Hattery’s Keith Johnk on facilities options and to narrow-down the language for a bond issue election coming up in February.
While the eventual ballot will be worded in very general terms to allow the district the flexibility to adjust to changing needs during construction, it will also contain a very specific dollar amount, which cannot be exceeded.
Working toward that specific amount, Johnk reviewed the latest district-wide master plan. The document includes a new eastside elementary school, an addition to and renovation of the middle school, and eventual additions to the high school as prioritized by the board and the facilities committee earlier this year.
Additionally, the plan suggested various improvements at Amana Elementary, such as upgrading electrical power in the classrooms and replacing 1950s-vintage electrical panels. It also called for additional playground space at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford and replacing the antiquated gym with a new and larger facility with public accommodations, such as the gym at North Bend Elementary in North Liberty.
The plan suggests funding for the various projects ranging from Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) dollars, the February bond vote, or even an anticipated 2019 bond referendum. A timeline details project start and completion dates.
For example, construction on the eastside elementary would start as soon as possible after passage of the bond in the spring of 2014, and the school would open for the fall of 2015. Other projects, such as the Oxford gym, would be pursued when feasible.
The new elementary, which has no designated site at this time, would be based on North Bend, with its additional classroom pod, but with more pre-kindergarten and kindergarten rooms. It also would have a more traditional elementary school-sized gym rather than the full-size facility NBE has. A partnership with the city of North Liberty– which allows the city’s recreation department to use the facility– enabled a larger gym with public access separate from the rest of the school. It was suggested that whichever community becomes home to the new school could be approached with a similar proposal.
Even though using North Bend’s plans will save the district money in design and engineering costs, not everything will be the same. Johnk noted significant changes in requirements, particularly in energy efficiency, since North Bend was built in 2007. Different windows will have to be used at a higher cost. Johnk estimated it as a “25-30 percent premium,” and noted the payback takes forever, but the windows are mandated by the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, enforced by the federal government.
In addition, more expensive insulation materials are required as a costly testing and commissioning process. He said in order to certify the building, it must be pressurized to over 200 percent of normal to check for any leaks. He estimates the 66,000 square foot structure will cost $17,646,000 next year, with a two percent inflation factor over today’s costs. However, land needs to be acquired, the cost of which is not known at this time, but would be factored into the bond referendum.
At the high school, a 12-classroom addition would be built in 2016 to be open for the fall of 2017. The plan currently calls for eight classrooms and four science rooms for 16,500 square feet total. High school principal Mark Moody questioned the number of science rooms to be used for lab experiments, suggesting instead 10 classrooms and two science rooms, since plan is still a work in progress. The addition is estimated at $4,112,800 in 2016 pricing, six percent higher than if done at today’s costs. Also there is a proposal for a second gym created by converting the current weight room and wrestling room. The number of athletic teams needing space to practice, coupled with the school’s many sections of physical education, make the additional gym space a critical need. Superintendent Tim Kuehl noted that most high schools, including those smaller than CCA, typically have two gyms.
Discussion regarding the middle school provided confusion and confrontation as board members tried to make sense of not only a proposed 60,000 square foot addition on the west end of the existing structure, but also of renovations to the building, which was built in multiple phases, most notably in 1968 and 1996. The confusion came in part from looking at the master plan for a multi-year, multi-phased expansion and renovation developed by Shive-Hattery in 2010. The first phase, removing the former wrestling room and replacing plumbing, was completed in 2011 and funded through the PPEL.
The current plan calls for the new addition to house administrative offices (relocated from the east end of the original building), sixth-grade classrooms for 250 students, a new media center, handicapped accessible locker rooms and kitchen and lunchroom facilities for up to 1,200 students. The addition has the potential to become a two-story structure, facing the high school and accessed from the same driveway as the high school.
The new phase-one addition is estimated at a cost of $16,080,300, two percent higher than today. Construction would start in the spring of 2014 with the facility ready for the fall of 2015.
Phase two, divided two parts, calls for renovating 65-70,000 square feet of the original building and is further broken down into medium and heavy classifications, based on the amount of work required. The newer portion of the building only requires medium work: new heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), new ceilings, new energy-efficient lighting, additional power and data wiring and some asbestos abatement. The older portion of the building requires heavy renovation: relocation of walls, new wall finishes, new HVAC, new windows and doors, as well as the medium requirements to fulfill current building, energy-efficiency and life-safety codes.
Miscommunication occurred as board members like Jim Seelman felt Johnk was reverting back to the 2010 plan, which called for a hodge-podge of additions in addition to re-purposing spaces. Johnk noted the original plan was designed for 150 students per grade, then expanded to 200 and now is geared for 250 in grades six, seven and eight. The phase two projects are currently estimated at $8,138,000, would begin in 2015 and be ready for use in 2016. Johnk estimated the cost at four percent over today’s prices due to the 2015 start date.
Since the 2010 plan contained outdated design, board decided to scrap it and focus on a new vision for the existing school.
The board held a special work session Monday, Sept. 30, to tour the middle school and further refine that aspect of the bond issue.
Johnk’s total estimate for the various projects, not including land acquisition, was $49,285,100. As the board and administrators narrow down space needs, it is expected they will search for ways to trim the cost downward ahead of a public education blitz.