Facilities discussion is only beginningThe release of a preliminary report regarding the Cloquet School District’s long-term facilities needs
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The release of a preliminary report regarding the Cloquet School District’s long-term facilities needs has started a conversation that will take many months to conclude.
Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said the report, which was given to Cloquet School Board members two weeks ago in summary form, is a great start on a public dialogue which needs to take place.
He also said it didn’t contain many surprises.
“We’ve been aware of these things for some time,” said Scarbrough.” It’s nice to see the particulars documented, and even though we know it’s out there we have a handle on costs and priorities.”
The report, issued by consultants Kraus-Anderson Construction and ARY Architects, lists up to eight potential solutions to repair or rebuild the district’s facilities, ranging in cost from just under $16 million to just under $50 million in price.
The study is being done to address two needs.
“We’ve got overcrowded elementary schools and we need to address that,” Scarbrough said. “We also have maintenance issues at the middle school.”
The report detailed approximately $14 million in repairs needed at the middle school alone over the next two to three years, most of which would be to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) setup.
“We knew the HVAC system needed upgrading,” Scarbrough said. “We knew the roof work was getting to the point where we had to do some things. We maintain the best we can but if you look at things like tuckpointing and plumbing, it’s an old building.”
The district last looked at its facilities about six years ago, Scarbrough said, but limited funds eventually forced the district to focus its energies on the elementary schools, the Garfield administration building and Cloquet High School.
“The middle school is very old and we need to take another look at it and then approach the public about how to fix it,” he said.
And, as the saying goes, there’s the rub.
“The middle school [repairs are] going to be in the millions of dollars that we need to do in the short term,” Scarbrough said. “We either find that money from a vote of the public or we dip into the general fund dollars to meet those needs. That also impacts the dollars that go directly to the education of students.”
However, the district is trying to think outside the box in terms of addressing the issue.
“We invited city and county representation to our last building study meeting,” Scarbrough said. “We did that so they would know the kinds of things we are looking at and to see if there are any ways we could collaborate for a synergistic solution that more than one government entity might be facing.”
While Scarbrough says it’s a good idea to have the three Cloquet levying authorities in the same room, he also notes that nothing should be read into the discussions at this time.
“It’s presumptuous to say the city and county can do this or that,” he said. “But in this day and age of collaboration and attention to budgets, if there could be a synergy we would want to look for that.”
It’s all part of eventually going to the public.
“This is all very preliminary,” Scarbrough said. “In the future we will expand our steering group and will look for forums where we can present our needs to the public and get the information out as to what our building and educational needs are. Then we will hear from the public as to how they see meeting those needs.”