Report details options for old and new schoolsThe first indications of just how much it might cost to fix physical issues with Cloquet’s public schools have been tabulated, in preparation for a much longer public debate that now surely lies ahead.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The first indications of just how much it might cost to fix physical issues with Cloquet’s public schools have been tabulated, in preparation for a much longer public debate that now surely lies ahead.
Prior to Monday night’s Cloquet School Board meeting, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough presented an executive summary of the new District Facility Study to board members, with numbers that tell a sobering story.
The district’s consultants, Kraus-Anderson Construction Company and ARY Architects, have estimated approximately $15,975,000 in repairs and upgrades are needed to the district’s five facilities over the next four to six years, with almost $14 million in repairs to the Middle School alone.
“There is lots of detail to be worked out,” Scarbrough said in presenting the report. “It’s estimates only, based on square footage, but we are clearly looking at significant maintenance issues in the coming years.”
The report split the $15,975,000 figure into repairs called “Priority 1,” meaning repairs needed within one to three years due to poor condition, code requirements, ADA compliance or security needs, and “Priority 2,” which are recommended within four to six years but which would save the district money by replacing now instead of in the future.
The middle school is in need of approximately $2,150,000 of Priority 1 repairs and upgrades according to the report, including replacement of the steam boiler system, replacing the kitchen’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit as it no longer meets code, and addressing building security issues.
Approximately $11,800,000 of the middle school’s needs fall into Priority 2. Of those, the vast majority of the repairs needed are to HVAC systems, some of which no longer meet ventilation standard amounts according to the consultants.
The report also detailed what consultants termed “Priority 3” upgrades, which are primarily to enhance the physical appeal of the various facilities over the next 11 to 25 years, amounting to $10,754,000.
According to the report, Cloquet High School is in need of approximately $350,000 of Priority 1 fixes including heating valves, wall cap flashing, and a replacement of the stage curtain in addition to fireproofing the existing one.
The report gives administrators and board members the first dollar figures on what it might cost to fix or replace the facilities and Scarbrough said it provides a good starting point.
“In terms of maintenance and replacement, we either need to get a referendum passed or we need to use general funds for essential maintenance because our operating capital will be sucked dry,” he said.
The report also presented eight potential options for addressing the issue, ranging in estimated costs from a low-budget, strictly maintenance option ($15,975,000) to a replacement option which would tear down the existing middle school, move students in grades 5-8 to the existing high school and build a new 9-12 facility while reducing Churchill and Washington Schools to grades K-4 ($49,670,000).
The fifth option, named “Option E” in the report, would provide maintenance for existing facilities, build a new middle school and change Churchill and Washington to Preliminary Kindergarten (PK) through Grade 4. Option E was estimated at $33,970,000 with a new middle school estimated at $32 million in price.
Scarbrough also spoke about the eighth option, detailed as “Option H” in the report, which would tear down the middle school and make additions to the high school to make it a segregated Grade 5-12 facility while adding to Churchill and Washington to make them PK-4 buildings, at an estimated cost of $34,000,000.
“There’s a synergy we are looking for,” Scarbrough said. “A larger gym, shared classroom space, those things. There’s a lot of detail to be worked out but we are also running out of room for elementary students and we have to address that, too.”
The report will provide a starting point for the debate on another referendum which Scarbrough said will eventually be necessary.
“We need the community dialogue and it has to start somewhere,” he said. “This report is a starting point.”