REINBECK – The Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District moved closer to updating its facilities on July 26 by welcoming members of the public into the conversation through a community input meeting and a tour of the building.
After successfully garnering enough petition signatures — and subsequently passing a resolution to order a special school bond election for Sept. 13 — the district is now embarking on selling the show to taxpayers and the community. in general.
Approximately 20 people attended the two-hour briefing/building tour which began in the middle/high school auditorium. Audience members were joined by several school board members, including board chair Donovan Devore, who gave the keynote address.
Also in attendance were GR Superintendent Erik Smith, Andrew Bell of Align Architecture, Dan Keagle of Peters Construction Corp. and Tom Boheman, a science teacher at GR High School.
Smith – entering his third year as GR superintendent – offered the first public welcome. He began by outlining one of the five guiding principles of the district, improving facilities to meet student needs.
“Over the past two years, we have spent many hours analyzing the current facilities, reviewing our needs for all of our students and programs, and determining our best path forward – which has brought us to where we are today. today,” he said.
Under Smith’s leadership and with the help of the district’s Buildings and Grounds Committee and a Facilities Task Force, the GR School Board determined that the best way forward would be a referendum on the bonds for $23.605 million in general compulsory education bonds to meet a multitude of facility needs. Requirements include HVAC system upgrades in both Jr./Sr. Secondary and Elementary Buildings, making all restrooms and handicapped at ground level accessible, an extension to the gym at Jr./Sr. Secondary school, elementary school classroom additions, secure entry to both buildings, and renovations and updates to both buildings.
“As a school district, we are committed to providing the best possible learning environment for our students,” Smith said in closing his remarks. “And I believe this is the best way for us to achieve that goal and move forward for the future of all families in the Gladbrook-Reinbeck School District.”
Speaker Devore then took the floor and addressed what many might see as the elephant in the auditorium – the district’s decisions over the past few years to stop using Gladbrook school buildings and demolish the complex afterwards. Demolition of the Gladbrook Building is underway but is expected to be completed this summer.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush,” Devore said. “[O]ver the past seven years, the GR district has gone through…closing the Gladbrook campus to scale the district for our faculty-to-staff ratio – keep that in mind – and then we also had the vote to dissolve. But in both of these events, we received fantastic support from the GR community and said deeply that we will move forward as a district as rebels.
Devore went on to briefly highlight many of the district’s needs before sharing that the two-year facilities study went rather modestly — with conversation in the hallway after a school board meeting.
Later in the meeting, Bell with Align Architecture provided an overview of the district’s facility needs, sharing that the initial impetus for the facilities study was the need for an elevator in the four-story building. from Jr. High. Currently, the 1921 brick building – which consists of a basement and three floors – only has one chairlift that only connects two floors.
Bell also shared that there was no air conditioning in most student spaces in both buildings.
“Precisely for elementary school, that’s what shuts down the district,” Bell said. “So the sweltering days when we don’t have school because of the heat, that directly inhibits learning environments.”
The Jr. High/High School building – in which the public meeting was held – also suffers from a general lack of air circulation. Many spectators fanned themselves as they sat in the spacious auditorium.
“This building had a ventilation system,” Bell said. “There are several points where there are very large ventilators in this building, but which have been closed for some time. We get some ventilation from exterior windows, but mechanical ventilation is sort of a must in Iowa and it’s one of the major components of what we’re going to invest in infrastructure.
Teacher’s point of view
Prior to Bell’s presentation, Tom Boheman, a high school science teacher who recently celebrated 40 years of service to the district, addressed the audience as an individual intimately associated with the district and its facilities.
“[T]The only thing that’s been here longer than me is the building,” Boheman said, drawing some laughter from the audience. “In [my] 40 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes – a lot of faces. I think I belong to seven or eight superintendents, seven or eight principles. Many changes. What really hasn’t changed much is the building.
Boheman went on to describe the many changes education has gone through in its 40 years.
“You would come into the room and sit down. You listen to the professor give his presentation, pick up your homework, take it home, come back the next day and do it again,” Boheman said. “Well, that school kind of died out with the dinosaurs – it’s extinct. We don’t do things like that [anymore]. … We try to do a lot more learning and less teaching.
“So the schools you and I went to are gone. We are in the 21st century now. Unfortunately, the school we have is built for a 20th century school.
Boheman then provided examples of his own teaching and curriculum that clashed with the constraints of a 20th-century school.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of what we do,” Boheman continued. “We are doing a great job here. … [But] you are never good enough, you can only be better. And I think if we’re going to improve…move to the good and the great…we have to provide the environment for kids to do that.
Boheman then shared that as he gets closer to retirement, he realizes he won’t be able to experience all of the positive changes the bond referendum could bring to the district.
“The honest truth to God is, however, that it’s not about me, it’s about the children. It’s about the community,” Boheman said in closing. “I think we owe the children of their give every possible chance to help them succeed in the 21st century.”
Visit and next steps
After Bell’s presentation, the group embarked on a tour of the building which took place on a hot, humid and sunny evening in Iowa, which meant the school was cooking. As members of the public moved from the lower floors to the upper floors, many noticed the marked change in temperature.
“If it’s sunny, it’s hot,” remarked a GR primary teacher who was part of the tour.
Safety and security were discussed as part of the visit, with several people expressing concern that the building’s classroom doors only lock from the outside.
The tour was fairly informal, allowing the public to look around at their leisure. The gymnasium was closed due to a recent waxing, but nearly every other area of the Jr. High/High School building has been explored.
After the tour, the audience returned to the auditorium for an encore performance by Bell during which he discussed many of the specific improvements the bond referendum could pay for in both buildings. Members of the public were also allowed to ask questions.
Dan Keagle, District Construction Manager, then made a brief presentation regarding early project cost estimates if the bond referendum passes.
Keagle’s best judgment on costs — given future cost escalations, he said — puts a price tag of $26,327,382 on the project which he says would ideally start in the summer of 2023 and s would be completed in the summer of 2025.
Keagle stressed that his estimates weren’t set in stone.
“It’s a pretty complicated chessboard,” he said.
In elementary school, Keagle estimates the unit price — cost per square foot — for classroom additions at $287.50 and interior renovations at $103.60.
At Jr. High/High School, Keagle’s unit price estimates include East Addition ($341.54), West Addition ($303.23), Gym Addition, and to Music ($277.22), 1921 Building Renovation ($123.74), 1968/2004 Building Renovation ($106.72). ), Technical Education Building ($67.38) and Fitness Center Building ($20.17).
If the September 13 bond referendum passes — to pass, it must be approved by at least 60% of voters in the election — those funds will be combined with $8.25 million in income bonds. school infrastructure (SAVE bonds).
A public hearing for SAVE bonds is scheduled for Thursday, August 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the commons of Jr. High/High School.
As the meeting drew to a close, Jerry Gallagher of the Donovan Group – hired by the district to provide public relations services around the bond issue – shared that a community survey conducted by his company earlier in the meeting he year showed that 77% of more than 300 respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the list of facility needs addressed by the bond issue.
In response to a question, Gallagher said the distribution of survey participants between the communities of Gladbrook and Reinbeck was proportional to the population ratio of the communities.
The next briefing – the second of three – is due to take place in Gladbrook on August 24 at 6.30pm. Further details regarding the location have yet to be made public.
The Gladbrook meeting is scheduled to address the financial aspects of the bond referendum, including the impact on taxpayers.