[Masthead] Partly Cloudy ~ 72°F  
High: 85°F ~ Low: 65°F
Thursday, June 30, 2016

School facility future: Marshall district seeks input on renovation option

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

(Photo)
Marshall's four existing elementary schools, clockwise from top left: Benton Elementary School, 467 S. Ellsworth Ave., built in 1922; Eastwood Elementary School, 313 E. Eastwood St., built in 1922; Northwest Elementary School, 411 N. Benton Ave. built in 1968; and Southeast Elementary School, 215 E. Mitchell St., built in 1928. Although the school board has for more than a decade planned to replace the aging buildings, public resistance to four bond issues prompted the district to explore the feasibility of renovating the existing buildings.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
Editor's note: This is the second part of a week-long series about the various aspects of efforts by Marshall Public School District officials to present facility plans and get feedback from the public. A series of public meetings began last week and continues this week.

After the failure of the school building bond last fall, Marshall school district officials decided to seek input from voters about whether they would prefer renovating existing buildings rather than building new ones.

The district asked its construction management firm, Titan Construction, to study the four existing elementary schools and provide an estimate of what it would cost to completely renovate them.

At recent public meetings, Superintendent Craig Noah and Citizens for the School Bond Co-chairman Wayne Crawford have described what a renovation project would involve and asked voters for their opinions about that option.

Noah has stressed that the $20.5 million price tag is not "written in stone."

"That's the maximum. It's as close to brand new as possible," he said. "You can always go through and take some of that out. We could say 'This roof is only 7 years old, let's not do that.' Or 'we think the floors are fine.' You could go back and cut that back as much as you want to."

In fact, the plan will have to be pared down some in any case because the total cost exceeds the district's $20.3 million bonding capacity.

Noah listed the items in the scope of work as including new roofs, new electrical system, new plumbing, new heating and air conditioning systems, new interior glass, new walls and floors.

Two more public meetings at Marshall elementary schools are scheduled for this week. Each meeting will include a tour of the host facility and an opportunity to ask questions of school officials:

--Eastwood Elementary School, 313 E. Eastwood St.: Thursday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m.
--Bueker Middle School, 565 S. Odell Ave.: Thursday, Jan. 21, at 5:30 p.m.

Some of the most critical needs on the three oldest buildings involve the environmental systems. Although boilers are relatively new, plumbing, ductwork and mechanical elements of the systems are old and increasingly unreliable, according to district administrators.

"If you go into some of our elementary classrooms, the students by the radiators are too hot. The middle of the room is OK, and the other side is too cold," Noah said. After renovation, "it would be a more stable environment."

Those systems are some of the most expensive elements of the renovation plan.

The walls are another big-ticket item. Noah reported that the 1920-era buildings have brick exteriors, then block, then interior walls. There is no insulation and no vapor barrier.

The older schools, especially Southeast and Eastwood, also have chronic water seepage problems that renovation would help address.

Cost estimates for each building are $3.69 million for Eastwood, $3.64 million for Southeast, $4.45 million for Benton and $2.91 million for Northwest.

Renovation alone would not address a top priority for the district, one board members believe the community does support, and that is reducing or eliminating the use of trailers as classrooms.

Trailers were intended as temporary measures to get the district by while new schools were constructed, Crawford said. But new schools were not built, and some schools have depended on trailers as overflow classrooms for 40 years.

During the tour of Benton school Saturday, Jan. 16, Principal Paige Clouse said one trailer behind the school is about 40 years old and hosted classes until just two or three years ago. Each Marshall school campus has at least one trailer, and some have several.

To address the trailer situation, the renovation plan also includes additions to Benton and Northwest schools. The addition at Benton would house kindergarten classes, and the addition at Northwest would house fifth-grade classes that currently use trailers and an annex at Bueker Middle School.

The $5.8 million for additions is included in the $20.5 million renovation plan estimate.

One aspect of the district's current facility problems would not be addressed by the renovation/addition plan, according to Noah. The common spaces such as cafeterias and gyms would remain the same size and at Benton and Northwest would have more students to serve.

During the tour Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Northwest school, Principal Janine Machholz noted that as the newest of the four elementary schools, the building is in good shape.

"The concern we have is space," she said and then introduced citizens to "our cafe-gym-a-musi-torium," the room large room that serves as a gathering place for multiple purposes. "We do everything in here."

It isn't the only area of the building that serves multiple purposes.

Like the other elementary buildings, classrooms at Northwest have been subdivided to create two or three mini-classrooms for special program instruction, like English as a second language, speech therapy or Title 1 special instruction.

Noah has noted that the district's student population has not changed dramatically in 10 to 15 years.

But Crawford said in his research on the facility situation, he learned that the older elementary schools were designed to accommodate about 125 students. Each now has more than 200, including those housed in trailers.

At the meeting Saturday at Benton school, board member Anita Wright noted that curriculum and services have changed in recent decades.

The additional services, some mandated by state or federal regulations, have contributed to space problems.

"Curriculum has changed. Society has changed," Wright said.

At the Northwest meeting, school board member Teri Wright suggested an informal poll of the more than 30 citizens present to see whether they favored renovation or building new. A clear majority favored building new, according to Crawford, who did a quick count of hands raised.

But renovation has its advocates, and several have attended the public meetings to argue their case.

Lucy Fletcher, who chairs the Saline County Courthouse Preservation Committee, which is overseeing the renovation of the courthouse, spoke at the meeting Thursday, Jan. 14, at Southeast school. Part of her concern was with preserving the structures, but she also said she worries about the effects of building a new -- and larger -- building.

"I read that the larger the school, the less parent participation you have, because parents can no longer see their effectiveness in a larger environment," she said.

She added that she favors eliminating the trailers and adding to existing buildings.

"I do think we need to enlarge the footprint that we have. And I think you can do that by utilizing that space in a more permanent structure, tying it in architecturally to the buildings we have in a sound manner," she said.

"People live in a small community because they want a smaller, more rural environment for raising their families," she said. "I have always believed that the people of Marshall are very generous and if you give them something that they want, they'll vote for it," she said, noting the wide margin by which the courthouse renovation sales tax passed.

Another factor in the renovation/addition plan is the logistics of continuing to hold classes while construction and renovation are being done -- a process that might take a year or two to complete.

Noah said the district might have to rent more trailers temporarily, or find a large space in town to rent. Another option would be to build the additions first and then rotate classes into the new classrooms while renovation is being done on the old ones.

Even with those complications, Noah said the district would rise to the challenge.

"It would work. It's better than what we have," Noah said. "Can we do it? We can do anything."

Contact Eric Crump at marshalleditor@socket.net

Photo gallery:
www.marshallnews.com/gallery/schooltours...

Related stories:
www.marshallnews.com/topic/mpsdbond09
www.marshallnews.com/story/1603972.html

Renovation estimate documents:
www.marshallnews.com/files/se-renovation...
www.marshallnews.com/files/nw-renovation...
www.marshallnews.com/files/nw-addition-d...
www.marshallnews.com/files/ew-renovation...
www.marshallnews.com/files/benton-renova...
www.marshallnews.com/files/benton-additi...

Poll:

The Marshall school district is seeking community input on whether to build a new elementary school or renovate four existing schools and expand two of them. The total price could be roughly similar. The expected lifespan of the renovated buildings would be about 20 years. The expected lifespan of the new building would be about 50 years. Which do you prefer?
 Renovate. The buildings need help but they are basically sound
 Build new. The old buildings no longer meet the needs of the district
 Neither. Things are fine as they are
 No opinion

Your comments about the poll question: (Optional)


Comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on marshallnews.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Like Jo, I am nostalgic for the old elementary schools. I would like to see them preserved. However, if there is an absolute necessity to build a 4-6 middle school I would support it as long as the remaining elementary schools are utilized as each one a separate K-3 or a suitable configuration. I just do not believe our current single grade schools are best for our children, parents, or our community.

-- Posted by izaak on Sat, Jan 23, 2010, at 7:23 PM

It sure would be nice to see at least one of the old school buildings survive.

In St. Joseph, a company came in and turned the old teacher's college building into very nice apartment housing. It's beautiful.

-- Posted by Citizens for the School Bond on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 7:44 AM

OOPS! Moot not Mute. Oh well. While I am on here, I want to inform those interested I have arrived at a decision concerning my moniker of Red Dog. I don't need no stinking alias. I am not ashamed of who I am. I am going to re-register and use my name. Red Dog is now a thing of the past, though I doubt any nostalgia will ever be associated with it.

-- Posted by red dog on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 7:17 AM

Hey Jo. I am with you concerning the outward appearance of the schools. We have three that reflect the twenties. I don't know what you could possibly do with any of them after they are vacated. The internal problems and the lack of any insulation in the outer walls would preclude most from spending any money on them. In other words, all are money pits. It would be really nice if at least one of them were preserved somehow.

This reminds me of the old Depot on Seebree. A lot of railroad buffs, and history buffs, have wished it could be brought back to life. Several have tried. It would appear they ran out of money.

Northwest school burned down about '64 or '65. The new building was erected in 1968. It has stood the ravages of time much better than the other three.

Think about what has happened in Marshall the last few years. A Civic Center/Museum has been built (mostly donated money); Fitzgibbon Hospital now has a Cancer Center (A lot of donated money); The courthouse is being renovated (Tax Money); A new jail (Tax Money); I am forgetting something. Someone help me out.

I think it is so sad we can build a new jail to house the bad guys and can't take proper care of our kids.

I digress. How do we go about preserving one of the old schools? What do you do with an old, vacated school? What business could you possibly run out of one and make money. As always, money is the bottom line. Money wins out over nostalgia almost every time. An art gallery? A museum? A flea market? It is like old schools are purpose-built buildings with only one practical use. The overhead in one of them would be horrendous.

Like you Jo, I went to school in Marshall. I remember the times fondly. The nostalgia grows over the years, but common money sense wins out, at least in my mind. The bottom line is the dollar.

This may all be mute as a lot of people think they are already overtaxed and a school levy will put them into the poor house. Remember the County Farm? It is one of the few examples of an old building that was turned into a nursing home and was able to stay in business for a while. Missouri Valley College does, or did, own it now.

-- Posted by red dog on Thu, Jan 21, 2010, at 7:09 AM

i MAY NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO GIVE MY OPINION, BUT I WOULD HATE TO SEE THE OLD SCHOOLS DEMOLISHED. THE HISTORY AND CHARM OF THE ARCHITECTURE SHOULD NOT BE LOST,IN MY OPINION WITH RENOVATION YOU WOULD HAVE A MUCH BETTER BUILDING THAN NEW, AND A LOT LESS MAINTAINENCE! YOU DON'T GET THE KIND OF MATERIALS AND ARCHITECTURE THESE SCHOOLS HAVE! I WENT TO NORTHWEST,BENTON,EASTWOOD ,AND MARSHALL HIGH WHEN I GREW UP THERE. I LOVED THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE OLD COURT HOUSE & AND A LOT OF THE HOMES. I HATED WHEN THEY DEMOLISHED THE OLD NORTHWEST,THAT'S WERE I WENT TO MY FIRST GRADE CLASS. MRS MOORE WAS MY TEACHER. THE LESS CHANGE MAKES THE TOWN MORE CHARMING! MY OPINION.

-- Posted by Jo on Wed, Jan 20, 2010, at 11:30 PM


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: