The Park Rapids School Board held a workshop on Monday to discuss what school improvements they can achieve with board-approved funding, and what these items would cost.

Jason Splett with the educational consulting firm ICS facilitated the discussion, continuing the “Project 309” proposal to improve and reconfigure the school district’s educational facilities.

Previously, voters in the district turned down a $59.8 million bond issue on both Nov. 3, 2020 and April 13 to fund the project. Since then, the school board, ICS and Ehlers financial advisors have looked at ways to reduce the price tag on a future voter-approved bond by accomplishing some of the project’s aims with board-approved funding.

Sticker prices

On May 3, the school board participated in a prioritization exercise, voting for which pieces of Project 309 are most urgently needed. Splett reviewed those priorities, their estimated costs and potential funding sources, as follows:

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  • $17.6 million to demolish the Frank White building and add a wing for grades 7-9 at the south end of the high school, including one P.E. gym that would be needed as grades 7-8 move over from Century School. Splett said abatement funds could be used for parking lot improvements.

  • $66,000 to reconfigure grades at Century School, after moving grades 7-8 out and bringing early childhood classes over from Frank White. Also, an early childhood playground would need to be created.

  • Improving the fine arts facilities at the high school, costing approximately $1.3 million to update the auditorium, $1.2 million to renovate the choir and band rooms, $1.1 million to add a music commons area with practice rooms, and $650,000 to add a new scene shop, since the high school office would relocate to where the scene shop is now.

  • Approximately $9 million to resize high school classrooms to meet state standards and reconfigure the media center as more of an open corridor with breakout spaces along the sides; or $8 million for a lighter renovation of the media center. Either option could be partially funded by long-term facilities maintenance funds (LTFM).

  • $2.7 million to build an addition at the north end of the high school to house art, agriculture and Alternative Learning Center classes. Splett said lease levy funding could pay for this, adding $17 a year to the school taxes for a $200,000 home.

  • Splett presented three choices for securing school entrances. All three included a new parking lot and pickup/drop-off lane on the west side of Century School and moving the high school office into the current scene shop next to the front entrance. Abatement funds could be used for the parking lot. Option A, putting Century School offices at both the east and west entrances, would cost about $5.6 million. Option B, leaving the offices as-is and continuing to buzz visitors in, would cost about $2 million. A “one entrance” option, with a larger parking area on the west side and all visitors entering by a single office at the west door, would cost about $2.8 million.

  • Adding another PE gym at the high school would cost about $3 million, plus $4 million to make the locker rooms (currently in the basement) more accessible and to move the kitchen to where the high school office is; $1.4 million for an activities commons and fitness lab; and $900,000 to run a suspended walking track around the new gyms, including stairs and an elevator. Splett said the locker rooms need to be made more accessible regardless.

  • Adding classroom space at Century School to accommodate future growth, costing $850,000 for two classrooms in the west wing and $600,000 for one classroom in the east. Lease levy could be used for either or both additions.

  • $3.8 million to build a bus garage on school property.

  • Deferred maintenance priorities at the high school: $825,000 for roofs, $990,000 to replace exterior metal wall panels; $1 million for dehumidification and cooling apparatus; $781,000 for parking lot maintenance; $1.5 million for restroom renovations. LTFM funding applies for all projects, abatement bonds for the parking lot and indoor air quality funding for the climate control systems. The estimated tax impact of this piece would be another $17 added annually to the property tax for a $200,000 home.

  • Deferred maintenance at Century School: $680,000 for parking lot maintenance; $200,000 to replace the elementary playground; $1 million for boiler-chiller replacement; $1.5 million to upgrade the lighting to LED fixtures; and $660,000 to replace approximately one-third of the roof. LTFM qualifies for all projects, abatement bonds for the parking lot, and performance contracting funds for the boiler-chiller and lighting upgrades.

  • $2.2 million for furniture, fixtures, equipment and technology and $661,000 to replace the Century School tennis courts.

Filling in the blanks

Splett led the school board through a “BIMSUM” exercise – a summary identifying each cost item by a “building improvement measure” (BIM) number and description. He stressed that he was angling only for the board’s opinion, and that they were not making any decisions.

Splett used a spreadsheet that would update the dollar totals for board-approved funding, with and without a tax impact, and for the portions of the project that will require voter approval.

Board members selected the options they considered most urgent: high school and Century grade reconfiguration; auditorium improvements; the scene shop addition; high school classroom improvements with the lighter renovation of the media center; the art, agriculture and ALC addition; Century parking and security “Option A”; adding a high school gym addition and relocating the locker rooms and kitchen; and purchasing furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new spaces.

This brought the total funding via lease levy, for the art/ALC/ag addition at the high school, to an estimated $2.7 million, and the balance for a voter-approved bond to about $42.5 million.

A special meeting was set for 6 p.m. Monday, June 14. Splett agreed with Ehlers personnel to come back then with more details about the tax impact of the project, and follow up with a similar exercise, to explore further details of the project.