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Schmidt answers more questions about B-E school project

With a referendum vote for a proposed new K-12 Brandon-Evansville School just three months away, there are still lots of questions community members, parents and staff members want answers to. The vote for the $38.75 million bond referendum is set for Aug. 30.

Warren Schmidt, project facilitator hired by the district, has been addressing those questions through weekly updates on the school district’s website. Questions and concerns be emailed to Schmidt at schmiw424@gmail.com.

In his update, Schmidt said that staff members from the B-E School District toured the school in Rothsay, which was recently built. Although the facility is smaller than what Brandon-Evansville is looking at, it provided some ideas for the staff members, said Schmidt in his update.

Schmidt said he has encouraged school staff to visit other schools and to also take pictures of areas they liked.

“Staff and community ideas will become a guide to what the B-E campus might look like,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also talked about tax relief on ag land. He said that information from the Minnesota School Board Association and the Minnesota Rural Education Association indicated that the legislature would basically provide the farming community a reduction of 40 percent of the tax burden on school construction costs. That 40 percent, he said, would become the responsibility of the State.

“At this point, we are reluctant to publish any tax impact information until we have official data from the Minnesota Department of Education,” said Schmidt.

Here’s a look at the some of the other questions and Schmidt’s answers from the May 31 and June 6 update.

Q: Is it true that Mr. Schmidt gets one percent of the bond if the referendum is successful?

A: No, I am on a salary basis whether the referendum is successful or defeated.

Q: Has any planning been done at this time as to what the daycare center would look like and what the hours would be?

A: No planning has been done in regard to the daycare facility. We guess that the center will be open weekdays and operate like most centers – 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but that will be up to the school board and administration.

Q: Will the new school have all new equipment?

A: The staff will be asked to complete an inventory that also defines the condition items are in and if at all possible, we will move the items into the new school rather than buy new.

Q: Will teachers get to plan their rooms?

A: To a certain degree, but the final decision rests with the Board of Education. The staff will have an opportunity for input as to what they would like to see their room look like but again the final decision will come from the school board and administrators.  

Q: Will there be carpet in the rooms?

A: Very little carpet will be used, especially in the high school. Preschool and kindergarten will get some carpet in those areas. With carpet, it is estimated that it takes 12 minutes to clean the room and vacuum. With hard tile we can save approximately six minutes per room. With 30 rooms that means we could save three hours a day or 513 hours in a 171 school-day year. With a rate of $20 including benefits that means we could save $10,260 a year with hard floors compared with carpeting. Again, this decision will be made by the school board with input from others.

Q: What type of lighting will be used?

A: Current recommendations are LED lighting with sensors so lights will shut down in a certain amount of time if no movement is detected in the room. This decision will be made by the school board with input from others.

Q: Will anybody lose their job due to the new facility?

A: We hope not. Some people may be trained in with new job duties, but we hope we can keep all current personnel and if we need to reduce it would be through attrition.

Q: Is an outside running track in the proposed athletic complex?

A: Not at this time. The school board and administration have yet to review what new if any activities will be added to the program. Sometime during the summer months the board will make a list of activities that it feels could be added if there is sufficient money. At the same time, school board members will also make a list of activities they feel could be deleted if there isn’t enough money. If the bids come in under the budget, then we could consider adding a track. If they don’t come in at budget allotments, then decreases will need to be considered. Also, the board would need to consider if the bids come way under budget, does it reduce the taxes or add programs.

Q: If the facility costs approximately $300 per square foot and there is 115,736 square feet, why is the bond issue for $38.75 million? When you multiply $300 a square foot by 115,736 square feet you get $34,720,800?

A: The approximate cost of $300 per square foot represents construction costs or bid costs. In addition to bid costs, we have costs associated with fees, consultants, legal, state permits, contingency, furniture and etc. When you add those costs, it is then called project costs. The $38.75 million includes all costs or project costs.

Q: Can you verify any other schools that have recently been bid that support your belief that your projected costs are valid?

A: Please remember that there are two costs involved in figuring the cost of a new facility. One is called construction costs and the other is project costs. Construction costs are those costs associated with the bids. Project costs include bid costs along with such issues such as fees, consultant, legal, state permits, contingency, furniture and etc.

Here is a list:

Delano (2017):

  • Size: 73,222 square feet
  • Construction cost: $18,865,000 – $230.32 per square foot
  • Projected cost: $24 million – $327.77 per square foot
  • Inflated to a 2018 bid, construction cost would be $258.78 per square foot and the project cost would be $340.88 per square foot.  

 Wayzata (2015):

  • Size: 84,214 square feet
  • Construction cost: $19,373,800 – $230.05 per square foot
  • Project cost: $24,218,000 – $258.78 per square foot
  • Inflated to a 2018 bid, construction cost would be $258.78 per square foot and the project cost would be $336.42 per square foot.  

 Spring Lake Park (2017):

  • Size: 102,980 square feet
  • Construction cost: $25,843,802 – $250.95 per square foot
  • Project cost: $34.9 million – $338.90 per square foot
  • Inflated to a 2018 bid, construction cost would be $261.00 per square foot and the project cost would be $352.46 per square foot.  

 Rothsay (2014):

  • Size: 92,404 square feet
  • Construction cost: $14,987 – $162.19 per square foot
  • Project cost: $19,700 – $213.19 per square foot
  • Inflated to a 2018 bid, construction cost would be $197.14 per square foot and the project cost would be $259.13 per square foot.
  •  

Brandon-Evansville:

  • Size: 115,736 square feet
  • Total estimated cost: $38.75 million
  • Projected cost per square foot: $334.82

 Q: How long is the offer of Wayne Lund’s land donation valid?

A: The issue will be part of the memorandum of understanding, which is currently being developed. We will learn more from the attorneys soon.

 Q: Will the new school be a one- or two-story structure?

A: That hasn’t been finalized. The advantage of a two-story structure is the fact that it doesn’t have as large of a “footprint” as a one-story structure, meaning it could save money on the cost of concrete footings and would not take up as much land as a one-story structure.

 Q: What role does the State have in the construction of a new facility?

A: If you are making reference to state organizations outside of education you would be referring to state building codes, fire codes, plumbing codes, health and safety codes, elevator codes if there is an elevator, DNR, food service codes, structural inspections, and several other entities that all must give their approval. The fees for related inspections could easily exceed $500,000.

 Q: What transpired in regard to the 2015 Task Force and why didn’t the school board follow the recommendations of the group?

A: The Task Force worked diligently through many meetings to come up with a recommendation for the school board. The recommendation of the Task Force was to remodel both sites at a cost of approximately $20 million in 2015. There was a discussion at the regular school board meeting in April 2015, but no vote was taken by the board. We do know that if the board had followed the Task Force’s recommendation and voted to move forward with two sites (remodeling/adding on), the Minnesota Department of Education would have rejected that recommendation in April of 2015 just as they did in April of 2017.

Had that happened, it would have given the community more time to come to grips with the State’s decision, but it would not have changed the State’s opinion. That is unfortunate, maybe, but in 2015, the newly consolidated district may not have been quite ready to approve a new building project in one town. The school district has now been successfully consolidated for four years and we have the good fortune to have students “busting out at the seams.”

Here’s a direct quote from the Minnesota Department of Education Advisory Memorandum from April 7 of this year: “Due to the site size limitations, myriad deferred maintenance issues, including significant fire suppression and building code upgrades that would be necessitated by significant renovations and/or facility additions, as well as the educational deficiencies associated with the existing structure, it is unlikely that any renovation/addition proposal involving the Evansville site would be considered economically or educationally advisable and approvable by MDE. The least advisable course of action for Brandon-Evansville to take would be to make school facilities improvements at the Evansville site and continue with a two-site model. Not only does such a solution inhibit the district’s ability to capture the scale economies associated with a one-site option, it would also saddle future school boards with significant operational costs and limit the district’s ability to adapt to future enrollment changes.” In simple terms, the Minnesota Department of Education will not approve a two-site model.

Q: Why has nobody prepared for this over the last 15 to 20 years?

A: The buildings were repaired as necessary; however any major improvements were not pursued since the district first needed to deal with other concerns, primarily consolidation. Neither the Evansville Board nor the Brandon Board wanted to do an expensive remodel when we did not know the classroom configurations, etc. The Boards did not want to spend money making changes that could be possibly changed again after a consolidation vote. This is not the only reason, but the main underlying cause for minimal action. Consolidation has been a conversation for more than 30 years. Year 2014 was the first graduating class after the merger. As we move forward, we now need to look at the real facts. Since the consolidation, the school district has been growing faster than any of the years before. We need to address this. According to the census from 2016 to 2021, this district could have an increase of approximately 100 new students attending school in the Brandon/Evansville district.

Q: What is the history in regard to increased enrollment when a district opens a new school?

A: I can only use Rothsay as an example. The first year they experienced a 39 pupil enrollment increase and the second year another 10 students started to attend the Rothsay School District. I don’t think Rothsay is different from any school so I would guess Brandon/Evansville could experience something similar. Before Rothsay built I had a conversation with Lake Park Audubon School District. They did not see a big increase but they did see a decrease of openenrollment out of the district.

Q: Is there any correlation between industries coming into a district after a new school is built?

A: There is research that shows schools do have an influence on young families when choosing a community to live in. Industry also looks at school systems as a means of helping them with their needs such as available classrooms to teach some of their classes after school ends for the day. Some schools and industries work together in providing exploratory classes that would help industries in getting good personnel to work for them.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste Edenloff, a reporter for the Echo Press, has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from May of 1999 to February 2011, and is happy to be back and once again sharing the stories of the people in this community. Besides being a reporter, Celeste is a certified fitness instructor and enjoys teaching bootcamp classes through Snap Fitness. She also enjoys running and has participated in more than 170 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

 

(320) 763-1242
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