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Utilizing every square inch of the Hancock Public school

An active yet cautious approach is how the Hancock School Board is proceeding when it comes to finding the needed space for an increasing enrollment. After reviewing several options, a committee formed at the February school board meeting, made their recommendations to the full board on Monday night. Instead of jumping right in and asking voters to approve a construction project, this committee has recommended finding temporary space within the current school building and getting a better perspective on what is needed in the long run.

The committee of Randy Reese, Barry Nelson, Tim Pahl and Jerry Martinson met and looked at financing option, possibilities in the current building and future needs at the school. They determined that two additional classrooms would be needed for the 2012-2013 school year and another room for the 2013-2014 school year. These classrooms would be needed as two large classes requiring two sections will move through the elementary grades and an increasing need for special education space.

One of the options, building classrooms this summer or the next, was reviewed. In order to pay for the classrooms, that would cost approximately $200,000 each, the board would probably need to go to the voters requesting the passage of a building bond. If only two classrooms were built, the project could be funded with a lease levy, not needing a public vote, with a payback of $35,000 per year for 15 years. However, to cover the cost of the third classroom, a building bond would need to be approved.

With the school district looking at renewing current levies and the possibility of a future construction referendum for a high school building, the board did not want to rush into asking for this levy money from voters. They also looked into renting space from somewhere within the city limits but learned that any building used would have to meet all OSHA and Health and Safety codes regulated at the school. Portable classrooms could also be rented at about $60,000 each with the requirement of a two year lease.

Instead of using funds to lease portable rooms, the committee took a look at what could be used within the school on a temporary basis. The following are changes and re-arrangements that could help meet the needs:

A. Move the secondary math classroom from the first floor of the high school to the second floor. This would free one classroom.

B. Put the ITV system on a mobile cart and move it to open rooms as needed for class time. This would open up the ITV room on the first floor of the high school for a second classroom.

C. Move the high school special education to room 214 (currently the counselor's office) in the high school building which would resolve the special ed space problems for grades 7-12.

D. Move the counselor to room 148, currently the high school special ed room.

E. Move grades five and six classrooms to the first floor of the high school, rooms 111 and 115.

F. Reconfigure the elementary rooms so one of the vacant rooms is used for first grade and one for special ed.

G. This opens up elementary office space for Reading Corps, Nurse, Title 1 paras and special ed paras.

These moves would work for the 2012-2013 year. Another classroom is needed for the 2013-2014 school year so some options are still on the table regarding that year. Some of the options include making one computer lab a mobile lab, rotating a high school teacher among vacant rooms, move the weight room and use it for a classroom or convert the choir room into a classroom.

In all these cases and, as classrooms are moved about, understanding and planning are crucial. The committee is reluctant to ask the voters to approve a building bond now, when the district still has five years to pay on the previous bond and could possibly be asking for another bond after that one is paid off. Superintendent Jerry Martinson also told the board that the district may be able to refinance the bond that expires in five years, get a lower interest rate and possibly pay it off sooner.

If a temporary fix can be utilized for a few years, the long-range results will be worth the wait and patience. In the meantime, the board will be contacting an architecture firm to get a better perspective on the condition of the current high school building and how future needs at the school can best be addressed.