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Second Hancock school referendum

The second of two referendums that will be on ballots this fall for Hancock school district voters, will be for the construction of additional classrooms and renovation of existing educational space. The Hancock school board recently filed a project proposal for Review and Comment with the Minnesota Department of Education, outlining the plan and MDE approved the proposal.

In the proposal, the benefits and reasons for the project were described. Some of these reasons include:

* The current kindergarten class is 25 students. Best practice suggests that class sizes at the primary level should be approximately 18 students. Because there are no classroom spaces available either in the high school or elementary portions of the building, this split is not possible.

* For the 2013-14 school year, the district is predicting 28 kindergarten students, so this class will have to be split into two sections. Another classroom is needed for this split.

* Classroom sizes in the current high school range from 440 square feet to 792 square feet. The only exception is the science classroom/lab which occupies 1,487 square feet. Classroom square footage recommendations are 850-950 sq. ft.

* Due to growing numbers at the elementary level and the lack of space. some classrooms have been moved to the high school, again with less than recommended space.

* The overall average classroom size for the entire 1920s high school building is 717 square feet. Considerably less than the state recommended classroom size for high schools.

* There are no open classrooms in the elementary or high school. Paraprofessionals work with small groups of students in the hallways, teacher's workroom, and cafeteria.

With these needs and others outlined, the project description was broken down into three specific areas.

1. New addition. Increasing enrollment and projected enrollments demonstrate a need for additional classrooms. As large grades move through the system, more flexibility will be needed to section the larger grades. The additional space would be gained by a proposed two-story building that will allow the flexibility needed to appropriately manage class size and best meet the needs of the students. In addition, the incorporation of an elevator into the new addition will address accessibility deficiencies.

2. Repurpose 1924 addition. The high school classrooms are currently housed in the 1924 addition. Over the years the programs and educational instruction have been adapted to fit the existing space and infrastructure. The classroom sizes need to be increased and some relocated to the new addition. Portions of the 1924 building will be reconfigured and repurposed to accommodate middle school students and allow for rooms within the 1960 addition to be used for double sections of primary level students.

3. Renovate the 1960 addition. After over 50 years of use, the 1960 addition is in need of facility improvements, repair, remodeling, renovation, upgrading, equipping and improvement. This proposed project will repair and resolve problem areas and allow for flexibility in classrooms. Improvements to aged infrastructure will also result in a healthier indoor environment and more energy efficient operations.

The new addition is estimated to cost $2,150,000. Repurposing the 1924 addition is estimated at $1,161,000 and renovation of the 1960 addition and throughout the school along with other fees and contingencies will make up the remainder of the estimated $5.4 million project.

Many of the renovations and improvements in the 1924 and 1960 additions are expected to save the district money in operations due to upgraded and more energy efficient products.

The next step in this process is to send out a mailing to all voters describing the project and then hold a public meeting allowing for questions and sharing of information. Some of this information will include a table estimating the effect the new referendum will have on taxes. The referendum vote will take place on Dec. 18, 2012. If voters approve the referendum, bids will be accepted and approved over the winter and construction estimated to begin in the summer of 2013 with a completion date of Aug. 23, 2013.