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New middle school decision will be on ballot

WORTHINGTON -- District 518 will move forward with a referendum for a new intermediate school, the school board decided during a special meeting Thursday morning.

Pat Overom, of ICS Consulting in Mounds View, presented the board with four options on timelines. The board then opted to target the Nov. 5, 2013, election to present the referendum.

"There is really one good choice at this point in time, unless we want to wait a full year," board member Mark Shepherd said.

The other options presented called for special votes, and two of the options presented didn't have occupancy until fall of 2016. However, by having the referendum vote in November, if it passes, occupancy could be in the fall of 2015.

"I'd like to avoid a special election if at all possible," board member Lori Dudley said. "That's just extra expense, and we would have a better chance of passing it on a regular November ballot with everything else."

First, the board reaffirmed the direction of moving toward an intermediate school on the same site as Prairie Elementary, plus an addition to the high school.

That decision was made instead of a plan that called for building an entirely new high school. At a previous meeting, it was revealed the Northland Mall site was preferred, but that potential sale was abandoned.

"There was some interest by some to look and see whether the Worthington Country Club would be interested in selling some property to put a high school on that," board member Linden Olson said. "What I understood, the reason the high school was eliminated was because there was no available property at the present time. Without the location of some other site, it's still off the table."

Superintendent John Landgaard confirmed the country club was not for sale.

"I checked with the president of the country club. At this point in time, they are not interested in selling," Landgaard said.

"In my view, unless there is a piece of ground we're interested in putting a high school on, this intermediate option is what you're dealing with."

Moving forward, the board will be looking to secure an architect in the coming months, with proper paperwork needed at the Department of Education by Aug. 1. The project bid and award is scheduled for June 2014, with the construction phase from June 2014 through August 2015.

The project design phase is scheduled for seven months.

"Seven months is a comfortable time frame for an intermediate school," Overom said. "If we're going to get everything going over the course of the seven months, we would anticipate or expect them to have multiple teams or groups, because you certainly want to take your time to get through the program and user groups and getting all that information.

"Some level of investigation and predesign work should happen prior to the referendum," Overom continued. "Upon a successful referendum, they are hitting the ground running."

Olson asked how much of the design should be done prior to the referendum vote to show the public.

"Oftentimes, it's a balancing act," Overom said. "You need to show them enough so they know what they are buying. But if you start showing them too much, it becomes subjective and folks start voting no because they don't like the brick being red, or some color or nuance in a rendering that's completely conceptual."

Overom discussed additional costs to the district. He estimated the operational costs for the school and addition would cost the district between $92,000 and $100,000 a year. That figure did not include staffing.

Olson, Steve Schnieder and Dudley volunteered to be on the project committee, which will begin working with Overom on the school.

The preliminary cost presented to the board for the project was approximately $37 million. That included closing West Elementary and relocating the Alternative Learning Center to the high school. A new school will be built to house grades 3-5, and the high school will expand to accommodate 1,000 students.

Both Landgaard and Overom stressed these were preliminary designs and costs, and they could fluctuate as the project moved forward.

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.