Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Board sets facilities deadline

November 30, 2006

The Baldwin Board of Education has set a goal of February for creating lists of short-term and long-term plans for its school district buildings.

The school board held a meeting Monday night to discuss the board vision and goals, but ended up talking about facilities and the need for a plan.

"We need to decide if it is time to repair buildings or is it time to perhaps build a new one," Board President Alison Bauer said. "That's what we are going to be looking into over the next couple of months."

Several items and buildings were brought up during the discussion, including Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, Baldwin Junior High School and the Gardner Intermodal project.

The school board began discussing facilities last year with former Supt. James White, but those ended when the superintendent search began.

"We got hamstrung by circumstances," Bauer said. "We need to start talking about that again. We have issues at several of our buildings in the kitchens. We have issues at the primary center that have to do with doors and windows not opening and closing properly, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing. There are a lot of issues there that we need to look into. To answer those questions, we've got to have a plan in place."

On Monday night, Supt. Paul Dorathy introduced the topic of the Intermodal and Logistics Park in Gardner, which will be a hub for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.

The facility would become part of BNSF's chain for moving cargo by train to the park. From there, the freight would be stored in private warehouses or dispersed throughout the Midwest by truck or train.

Dorathy just wanted the board to be aware of the effects it might have on Baldwin when creating a facilities plan, because the facility is projected to bring thousands of jobs to the area.

"I think we need to be proactive in the impact that the Intermodal might have on us population wise and student wise," Dorathy said Tuesday. "I want us to be proactive here and not be caught with a huge influx of students and not be prepared for them."

He also said he and a couple of board members would be attending the informational meeting about the Intermodal at 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Ottawa Country Club.

Another piece of the facility discussion was the improvement of technology around the district. On Tuesday, Dorathy said technology should be included in the facility plans.

"I believe the technology is part of the plan," Dorathy said. "Anytime you are considering upgrading facilities, you need to look at the technology piece. It's just part of our lives now. We need to upgrade technology at the same time we upgrade facilities."

After those ideas came out, the board tried to set a deadline goal for the plans. Board Member Scott Lauridsen first suggested June, but Board Member Blaine Cone said the board needs to act faster.

Cone suggested having the deadline be in February. She said the plan wouldn't be a finalized schedule, but it would get the board headed in the right direction.

Lauridsen said the board wants to create a plan that will help it decide when to construct new buildings in the district.

"Typically, districts have a facility plan around the size of the district," Lauridsen said. "You change your facilities a lot, sometimes it's based on age, but mostly because you are growing and you need more buildings. As you put your plan together about when do we have enough students in a certain building that we're going to have to get another building or add on to it, you need to have that vision of when it gets to those sizes, what buildings am I going to need? The student population growth will drive how fast that happens."

Dorathy's final suggestion for the board revolved around using an architect to help figure costs.

"Anytime you start looking at facility upgrades, you really should have an architect involved early," Dorathy said. "They can guide you on what you can do and what you can't do with facilities and how expensive that's going to be.

"People can come up with lots of ideas about what they would like facility upgrades to be, but an architect is the one who can say this is going to cost this much money," he said. "There are limitations and money is a limiter on what you can do."

The school board will continue discussing facility plans at its next meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at the District Office.

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