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ISD 518 votes to expand, renovate administration building

Project is estimated at $1.5 million; the district has the funds to pay for it.

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District 518's administration building at 1117 Marine Ave. will be expanded into this area, the District 518 Board of Education decided in a unanimous vote Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.

WORTHINGTON — After exploring a variety of options, the ISD 518 Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to proceed with an expansion of the district’s administration building at 1117 Marine Ave.

Operations committee members Stephen Schnieder and Joel Lorenz both agreed the addition is the best option for the district at this time. The committee had also looked at relocating — the Purnet building in the city’s bioscience park was decidedly not an ideal location — and building new, which would have more than doubled costs.

ISD 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said expanding the existing 4,000-square-foot building will meet the district’s needs for at least a decade, if not longer. Green space to the west, as well as to the north and south, can accommodate the proposed 2,400-square-foot addition.

The entire project is estimated at $1.5 million, which includes an estimated $375,000 renovation of the existing office space, and $540,000 in new construction. Additional costs outlined in the analysis included $100,000 for sidewalk and hard surfaces, $100,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment, $40,000 for technology, communications and data infrastructure, and approximately $255,000 for soft costs such as design, construction management, permits and fees. A nearly $93,000 contingency is also built in.

Landgaard said the estimate was received when costs were elevated as a result of the global pandemic. He anticipates the actual cost will be lower, but the board won’t know that until the design is completed and construction bids are received.

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Schnieder said while expanding the existing building doesn’t provide for as much square footage as the operations committee initially discussed, it will be enough space to house district staff that are currently working from the old West Elementary building.

“At some point, it may be determined the space is no longer adequate for what we’re doing in the building, but our feeling is that will be quite a ways in the future.” Schnieder added, noting the space could one day be used by the district's IT department.

Board chairwoman Lori Dudley said she was in agreement on expanding the existing district office, citing its central location to other district buildings.

Board member Mike Harberts, noting the analysis was completed by ICS, asked if the district would seek other opinions on the project.

Landgaard responded that an architect and engineer are required, and everything currently goes through the state. At the time the project is released for bids, he said local contractors are welcome to bid.

“It has to go out on sealed bids,” added Schnieder. “Local contractors have the opportunity (to bid), but it doesn’t mean they’ll get the project.”

Lorenz also said the project doesn’t officially move forward until the school board accepts a bid.

Following Tuesday’s action, the district will proceed with an architect and engineer to firm up the layout and design process, which in turn will include getting a better estimate on the total cost of the project.

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Masks optional at start of school year

Based on guidelines as of Tuesday, Landgaard said students will not be required to wear facemasks in school as protection against COVID-19. That, however, could change as the Delta variant continues to spread and Nobles County remains an area of high concern for the virus.

Among actions taken by board members was the approval of health and safety measures for the 2021-22 school year. Landgaard said the policy allows the district to be more — or less — restrictive based on local infection rates.

“If masks are mandated for buses and vans, they will be required (to wear them),” Landgaard noted. “Otherwise, they will be optional.”

Landgaard said while the number of COVID cases locally is high, the rate among school-aged children is low. He also said that students who are out with COVID-19 during the school year will be treated just like students who are out with the flu or for any other reason. They will be able to get their homework assignments and be expected to complete them.

Landgaard also said the quarantine policy has changed.

“Just because you’re within six feet (of someone) doesn’t mean you have to quarantine,” he told board members. “If you’re wearing a mask, chances are you don’t have to quarantine.”

In other action Tuesday, the board:

  • Approved rental rates for the use of Trojan Field for non-school sponsored events. Landgaard said the rates have always been in place, but with new equipment, there are varying rates for their use. The rates are charged by the hour, and include everything from having an announcer to a scoreboard and video operator, play clock operator, chain gang, crowd control, custodial services and event workers. There is also a daily rate for use of the field house and/or concession stand; and daily, half day or hourly rental of the entire facility.

  • Approved a request from KJSM Investments for a five-year tax abatement through the Nobles Home Initiative for construction of a residential property in the Cherrywood Addition.

  • Approved memorandums of understanding with a Title 1 teacher who is returning to the district after retirement, and with band workers who will assist the band director.

  • Received an update on student numbers from Landgaard. As of Monday, 105 students were registered at the Learning Center (the projection was 90); 1,170 at Prairie Elementary (projected to be 1,150); 1,044 at the high school (at projection); 965 at the middle school (at projection), for a total of 3,284 students. Additional registrations are still coming in, although Landgaard said the total number of students is expected to drop due to students either moving out of state or enrolling in another school district and the school not being made aware of those instances.

Landgaard also said approximately 50% of students who left ISD 518 during the pandemic last year are returning to the district, while there are also a lot of students who are new to the district.

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The District 518 Board of Education decided in a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, to expand its administration building at 1117 Marine Ave.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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