By GREG SCELLIN, April, 13, 2016 –
While it’s not Extreme Makeover Shickley Public Schools edition, the inner workings of the school buildings in Shickley will be getting some much-needed attention this summer. While school district patrons might not recognize the improvements when school starts this fall, Shickley Superintendent Bryce Jorgenson noted the students and staff will surely ‘feel’ the improvements when classes begin next school year.
“I think it really hit our (school) board members when they made a trip to Hampton, who had recently completed a similar project, and talked to the students there,” Jorgenson said. “It will change the environment here …The students and staff will appreciate the air conditioning. I am a little worried that we’re spending a lot on things that aren’t super visible. But, this all has been needed for years… Fans will be able to feel it this fall when they attend a volleyball match, for sure.”
At the March 23, Shickley School Board meeting, school board members voted 6-0 to authorize Jorgenson to sign an Energy Services/Performance Contract with TRANE for the amount not to exceed $2.62 million for the Facility Improvement Measures discussed. The school board also voted unanimously at its March 23 meeting to authorize Jorgenson to enter into a contract with D.A. Davidson to sell limited-tax obligation school bonds, series 2016, to help fund the project.
On Monday, Jorgenson said D.A. Davidson has already sold $2.1 million in bonds. He said, bond payments are scheduled for 10 years and will be paid from a Qualified Capital Purpose Undertaking Funds (QCPUF) levy. He said the project qualifies for a QCPUF levy because the improvements deal with indoor air quality, safety code issues or asbestos. He also noted, per State statutes, the maximum the school district can levy for QCPUF is 5.2 cents per year, which based on the school district’s current valuation, will generate the $2.1 million to pay off the bonds in 10 years.
“If the project goes over this, the rest will come out of the building fund, which is doable,” Jorgenson said. “The QCPUF route also allows us to not have to go to a vote and get right to the problems. We will tackle the electrical issues before anything else. The second priority is the 1907 building… the boiler system is failing and the boiler people have told us it will not make another year. From there, the focus will be heating and air in the elementary wing and adding air conditioning to the gym.”
Shickley School Board member Joe Kamler said the school board didn’t take the decision to spend over $2 million of the school district patron’s tax money lightly.
“Our superintendent has done a great job putting this all together,” Kamler said. “This has been a year and a half in the making. The board has wrestled with what improvements we need to make. I got a good feel from our visit to Hampton, too. I thought ‘If they can do that there, why can’t we do something similar here?’ We started working in earnest on this in January. As a board, we felt the school is in desperate need of some rehab. Physically, the building isn’t going to change that much. But, the working parts are going to be much improved.”
Kamler also noted by going the QCPUF route, some added costs will be avoided and patrons will see some savings in the total project’s cost. He also said, the results of a survey compiled by the Shickley Community Improvement Committee — an independent group of community members who have been meeting regularly for 25 years with the sole purpose of keeping Shickley vibrant and progressing—also played a big role in his vote. A recent survey noted that over 40 percent of responses indicated the school in Shickley made them the most proud of anything in the tiny Fillmore County village.
“What made the biggest difference to me was the community group survey,” Kamler said. “It gave me a real comfortable feeling going along with this project.”
In a recent district-wide publication, Jorgenson outlined the areas that will be most-likely included in the project. The first was electrical work on the buildings, which was installed in 1907, 1954 and 1964 in different sections of the school campus. He indicated, the electrical systems have become overloaded with increased usage over the years and do not meet current codes. Number two was heating and air conditioning. He indicated, the steam boiler in the 1907 building is ‘on its last breath.’ He also noted new windows could be installed and the window air units discarded. Heating and air in the main gym, cafeteria and art room is also being considered. Rest rooms and locker room updates are also possible areas to be improved, as funding allows. These improvements would include flooring, stalls and fixtures. On Monday, Jorgenson said the school board will be discussing this week the possibility of rearranging the front entry way area into the main school building to better address possible safety concerns.
“In today’s world, safety can never be taken for granted,” Jorgenson said. “You hope it’s never an after-the-fact thing there.”
Both Kamler and Jorgenson agree that upcoming student enrollment numbers indicate there should be an adequate number of students to fill the updated school.
“Our projected numbers through 2027 indicate our attendance numbers should be good,” Jorgenson said. “In fact, our enrollment should be higher.”
Kamler said attendance numbers indicate class sizes of 10 students on up from the school district’s current first grade class. He also said the classes show a good mix of both boys and girls, and also from a sports outlook, it appears to indicate good participation numbers in all the higher elementary grades and junior high.
From here, Shickley school officials hope bids come in low and the school district can check off each item on its wish list.
“All of the areas being considered will have a dramatic impact on the learning environment, and we will see student pride increase,” Jorgenson said. “I am excited to see the improvement not only in our students, but also in our teachers. We often times take for granted the environment we live and work in and what impact it has in our lives.”
Kamler sees the project as a win-win situation for the students, staff and the community.
“I feel very comfortable with this whole project,” Kamler said. “I feel if you take the school away from Shickley, we’re slipping back instead of moving ahead.”
“The school board, the people of Shickley, want this,” he said. “The school is kind of the center of town… Shickley wants to keep a school here. The board, people want to make sure the school keeps going and it stays viable. This project will allow this to happen.”
News article from the Nebraska Signal