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Hancock high school building could be saved

Locating additional space for the growing enrollment at the Hancock Public School took a big step forward Monday night when the Hancock School Board heard the results of a comprehensive study conducted by I & S Group.

The company was retained by the board to do an overall study on the condition of the current high school building built in 1920, the 1960 wing which includes four elementary classrooms and the gymnasium, the flow of students throughout the buildings and how this affects each age level.

The study turned out to be a positive for the school district. I&S engineer and architectural designer Brian Gjerde and Brad Schonborn presented the report to the board members at their meeting on Monday night.

Gjerde, engineer and project manager, told the school board that despite its age, the 1920 building is structurally sound. Their team spent a lot of time looking at the building and found very few problems. The brick and mortar are good and the skeleton of the entire building is in good shape. "You have a very solid building there," stated Gjerde.

However, the 1960 addition has a few structural problems. The team noticed some floor heaving in the third grade classroom at the very end of the addition. He noted that there is some settlement causing this and that it should be rectified before it becomes a major issue. He added that the board should consider fixing it when it is a $5,000 problem and not a $100,000 repair.

One portion of the school that really needs work and in the long run could bring a solution to the classroom problem, is the shop. Gjerde said that the shop, which was once a gymnasium, is not in good condition. Adding to the structural concerns here is that it is only accessible by a stairway, which does not meet standards. He presented a couple of scenarios in regard to the shop that could be either a short term or long-term solution to the classroom problem.

He explained that as a temporary fix, a new floor could be installed in part of the shop to meet the level of the high school building, temporary walls put in place and a couple classrooms moved to this part of the building. There would still be enough room for the shop and ag classes to meet in the remaining portion.

Another suggestion was to remove the shop portion and construct a two-story addition that could contain the number of classrooms the board would feel is needed including a replacement area for the shop/ag class. This structure would also include an elevator to make the entire 1920 building accessible.

Gjerde and Shonborn explained that this would also be an attractive site for an addition due to the location of the boilers and electrical systems which are all quite close to this portion of the building. They added that the remaining rooms in the 1920 building could be remodeled with new electrical wiring, windows, doors, wall and floor coverings to modernize it.

The board members then discussed the timing of doing a project like this. They are currently looking at a need for a couple more classrooms as early as next year. The I&S representatives added that they could develop a plan to add on two more classrooms that could then be worked into the entire construction plan if that was the direction the board wanted to take.

While the board was originally looking at work on the high school building in five years, after the current bond referendum for the elementary building expires, they are now considering doing something sooner. By remodeling the current building and adding a wing to it, there will possibly be considerable savings.

Gjerde and Schonborn were asked for a guesstimate as to the cost for renovation, addition, electrical and mechanical work. They estimated this at somewhere between $75-$90 per square foot. A typical classroom is 900 square feet. The board was able to compare this with a figure received from Wadena for the new construction of their school which came in at $192 per square foot.

The board members asked Gjerde and Schonborn to work up some options for the classroom space and bring them to the next board meeting. While it is probably too late to get anything on the ballot for this November, a special election for a bond issue could be held in January. The board will make a decision after reviewing more options in regard to the building.